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A NEW TRANSLATION 
VOLUME 39 



A NEW TRANSLATION 



EDITORIAL BOARD 

ROY JOSEPH DEFERRARI 

The Catholic University of America 

Editorial Director 



RUDOLPH ARBESMANN, O.S.A. BERNARD M. PEEBLES 

Fordham University The Catholic University of America 

STEPHAN KUTTNER ROBERT P. RUSSELL, O.S.A. 

The Catholic University of America Villanova University 

MARTIN R. P. McGuiRE ANSELM STRITTMATTER, O.S.B. 

The Catholic University of America St. Anselm's Priory 

JAMES EDWARD TOBIN 
Queens College 



DIALOGUES 



Translated by 
ODO JOHN ZIMMERMAN, O. S. B. 



New York 
FATHERS OF THE CHURCH, INC. 

1959 



NIHIL OBSTAT: 

JOHN A. GOODWINE, D.D. 

Censor Deputatus 



IMPRIMATUR: 

gg FRANCIS J. SPELLMAN 

Archbishop of New York 



June 1, 1959 



Copyright 1959 by 
FATHERS OF THE CHURCH, INC. 

475 Fifth Avenue, New York 17, N. Y. 
AH rights reserved 



Lithography by Bishop Litho, Inc. 
V. S. A. 



INTRODUCTION 




REGORY THE GREAT (540P-604) is one of the strong 
men whom God raises up periodically to guide His 
Church and her members through periods of crises. 
His social and intellectual background and his spiritual 
formation prepared him well for the work awaiting him as 
supreme shepherd of God's flock. 

When he was about thirty-five years old, he resigned from 
the high political office held, as Prefect of Rome, to enter 
religious life. He founded six monasteries on his estates in 
Sicily and turned his own home on the Caelian Hill in Rome 
into the Monastery of St. Andrew. Then, after distributing 
the rest of his wealth among the poor, he entered St. Andrew's 
as an ordinary monk and lived there under the Rule of St. 
Benedict, which he was later to praise for its discretion. 

In 578 Pope Benedict I ordained him one of the seven 
deacons of Rome, and the next year Pope Pelagius II sent 
him as nuncio to the imperial court at Constantinople, where 
he remained for six years. Shortly after his return to Rome, 
be became abbot of St. Andrew's and five years later, when 
Pelagius II died, the clergy and people of Rome elected 
him Pope. m , ,. , r 

, , ,, v . - - .,... ..-.-. 

GG04339 



Vi SAINT GREGORY 

During a pontificate (590-604) which kept him very active 
in administering the temporalities of the Church., he was ever 
deeply concerned with the temporal and eternal welfare of 
his people. He had them in mind in particular when he 
wrote the Dialogues, the first three books of which contain 
accounts of the lives and miracles of various Italian saints, 
and the fourth an essay on the immortality of the soul. 

It is clear from the general preface in Book 1 that St. 
Gregory's chief reason for writing the Dialogues was to honor 
the memory of the saints of Italy and to edify and instruct 
his fellow countrymen. He wanted them to realize that they 
were living in a land of saints and that great miracles were 
as numerous among the Fathers of Italy as they had been 
among the Fathers of the Desert and elsewhere. The book 
was also written to comfort and encourage the people of 
Italy during one of the most disheartening periods of their 
history. The wars between the Emperor Justinian and the 
barbarian Goths for the mastery of the country had left much 
of it a wilderness. Men and women had to live in constant 
dread of the savage Lombard hordes that swept down into 
Italy in 568 and were still slaying and pillaging wherever 
they turned. Floods and plagues and a long series of famines 
added to the general gloom. Many even felt that the final 
destruction of the world was at hand. After reading in the 
first three books of Dialogues about the many striking miracles 
performed in their very midst, they would no longer question 
God's unfailing protection of His people. Then in Book 4 
St. Gregory endeavored to strengthen their faith in the 
unseen hereafter by proving that the soul does not perish 
with the body and can look forward to eternal happiness. 

Gregory presented his material in the form of a dialogue, 
a literary device quite common among the pagan classical 
authors as well as among the Fathers of the Church. The 



INTRODUCTION Vli 

discussions take place between the author and his deacon 
Peter, and, as in the case of many earlier 'dialogues/ the 
leading speaker completely dominates the conversation. He 
did not employ this literary form, however, merely as a means 
of interrupting his narrative from time to time and of adding 
a note of informality. Peter's remarks and suggestions, his 
questions and doubts, were designed to give Pope Gregory 
an opportunity to draw spiritual lessons for his readers from 
the incidents narrated. These digressions have great doctrinal 
value and contain the practical moral reflections for which 
St. Gregory is so famous. 

Very likely, Peter was also meant to be a spokesman for 
the members of the papal household, giving expression to 
the interest and enthusiasm with which they had watched the 
Pope compiling his narrative. For, as St. Gregory mentioned 
in a letter to Maximian, 1 Bishop of Syracuse, it was in answer 
to their urgent requests that he had originally decided to 
write about the saints of Italy. 

From this letter, too, we know that St. Gregory was busy 
writing the Dialogues in the summer of 593. Perhaps the 
work was nearing completion at the time, for he asked 
Maximian to hurry and send the story about Abbot Nonnosus 
and any other details that might be of interest. Very probably, 
then, much of the material to be published was already at 
hand. The members of the papal household would hardly 
have urged him to write these lives had they not previously 
heard many of them from his own lips. As spiritual father, 
St. Gregory was in the habit of instructing his household in 
asceticism as he had done during his mission at Constan- 
tinople and later as abbot of St. Andrew's. These instructions, 
no doubt, were enlivened by vivid narratives from the lives 

1 Epistolas 3.50 (edd. Ewald-Hartmann, MGH Epist. 1 206) . 



Viti SAINT GREGORY 

of the saints of Italy, so that his audience became enthusiastic 
enough to urge him to publish them. With materials ready 
at hand, it was quite possible for the Pope to complete the 
publication of the Dialogues in the fall of 593 or shortly 
thereafter. 

The present translation is based on the text given in 
Moricca's critical edition of the Dialogues. The Douay Ver- 
sion is used for Scriptural citations from those books of the 
Old Testament not yet available in the Confraternity Version. 
New Testament quotations are from Monsignor Ronald 
Knox's translation. Exceptions are indicated in the footnotes. 

The translator wishes to express his indebtedness to Rever- 
end Benedict Avery, O.S.B., of Saint John's Abbey, for 
reading the manuscript and offering valuable suggestions, 
and especially for his work as co-author of the translation of 
Book 2, Life and Miracles of Saint Benedict (Collegeville, 
Minnesota 1949) which is here reprinted with some slight 
changes. 
% 

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY 
Texts; 

Dialogorum Libri IV opera et studio Monachorum S. Benedict! a 
Congregatione S. Mauri (Opera omnia 2, Venice 1744) . 

J. P. Migne, Patrologia Lattna 66 (Paris 1847), Book 2; 77 (Paris 
1848), Books 1,3,4. 

U. Moricca, Gregorii Magni Dialogi (Rome 1924) . 

Translations: 

E. Gardner (ed.) , The Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great (London 

1911). 
J. Funk, Gregor des Grossen vier Bucher Dialoge, Bibliothek der 

Kirchenvater, zweite Reihe, Band 3 (Munich 1933) . 
A. Hoffman, The Life and Miracles of St. Benedict (Collegeville, 

Minnesota 1925) . 



CONTENTS 
BOOK ONE 



Chapter 


Page 


1 


Honoratus, abbot of the monastery at Fondi . 


6 


2 


Libertinus, prior of that monastery .... 


9 


3 


The gardener of the same monastery 


14 


4 


Equitius, abbot in the province of Valeria , 


16 


5 


Constantius, sacristan of the Church of St. 






Stephen near Ancona . . . . . 


25 


6 


Marcellinus, Bishop of Ancona 


27 


7 


Nonnosus, prior of the monastery on Mt. Soracte 


28 


8 


Anastasius, abbot of the monastery of Suppentonia 


31 


9 


Boniface, Bishop of Ferentino 


34 


10 


Fortunatus Bishop of Todi ... * * 


41 




11 


The monk Martyrius of Valeria .... 


49 


12 


Severus priest of Valeria . . . 


50 






BOOK TWO 




1 


The mending of a broken tray .... 


56 


2 


The saint overcomes a temptation of the flesh . 


59 



3 A glass pitcher is shattered by the sign of the cross 61 

4 A monk is cured of wandering about during 
prayer 66 

5 At the saint's word water streams down the 
mountainside 67 

6 An iron blade is recovered from the water . . 68 

7 One of Benedict's disciples walks on the water . 69 

8 A raven carries off a poisoned loaf of bread . . 70 

9 A heavy rock is lightened by the saint's prayer . 75 

10 Benedict's disciples imagine the kitchen is on fire , 75 

11 A young monk is crushed under a wall and then 
restored to life 76 

12 Some monks disobey the Rule by eating outside 

the monastery 77 

13 Valentinian's brother is guilty of a similar offense 77 

14 King Totila's trickery fails 79 

15 The saint's prophecy about King Totila . . 80 

16 A cleric is freed from an evil spirit .... 81 

17 Benedict foretells the destruction of his monastery 85 

18 The saint is aware in spirit that a flask of wine 

has been stolen 86 

19 A monk accepts some handkerchiefs as a present 86 

20 The man of God reads a young monk's proud 
thoughts 87 

21 A generous supply of flour is discovered in front 

of the abbey during a famine 88 

22 Two monks learn in a vision how they are to 
build their monastery 89 

23 After death two nuns are freed from excommuni- 
cation through the saint's offertory gift ... 91 

24 A young monk whose body could not rest in its 
grave 94 



25 A dragon blocks a dissatisfied monk's departure 

from the abbey 94 

26 The cure of a leper 95 

27 The miraculous discovery of some money saves an 
unfortunate debtor 95 

28 A glass vessel strikes against the rocks without 
breaking 96 

29 An empty cask overflows with oil .... 97 

30 A monk is freed from an evil spirit .... 97 

31 A glance from the saint sets a captive free . . 99 

32 A dead boy is raised to life 100 

33 Scholastica's miracle 102 

34 Benedict sees the soul of his sister on its way to 
heaven 104 

35 The whole world is gathered up before the saint's 
eyes, and he beholds the soul of the Bishop 
Germanus 104 

36 The monastic rule he wrote 107 

37 Benedict's disciples are forewarned of his death . 107 

38 A woman is cured of insanity by stopping at the 
saint's cave 108 



BOOK THREE 

1 Bishop Paulinus of Nola Ill 

2 Pope John 115 

3 Pope Agapitus 116 

4 Bishop Datius of Milan 117 

5 Bishop Sabinus of Canosa 118 

6 Bishop Cassius of Narni 119 

7 Bishop Andrew of Fondi 120 



XI 



8 Bishop Constantius of Aquino 123 

9 Bishop Frigdianus of Lucca 124 

10 Bishop Sabinus of Piacenza 125 

11 Bishop Cerbonius of Populonia . . . . 125 

12 Bishop Fulgentius of Otricoli 127 

13 Bishop Herculanus of Perugia 128 

14 The servant of God Isaac 130 

15 The servants of God Eutychius and Florentius . 135 

16 Martin, a monk of Mt. Massico . . . . 141 

17 A monk of Mt. Argentarius 145 

18 The monk Benedict 148 

19 The Church of St. Zeno in Verona . . . . 149 

20 Stephen, a priest of Valeria 151 

21 A young woman consecrated to God frees a man 

from the power of Satan by a simple command . 152 

22 A thief is held captive in a cemetery by the power 

of a saintly priest of Valeria who lies buried there 153 

23 The abbot of Palestrina and his priest . . . 155 

24 Theodore, a sacristan of the Church of St. Peter 

the Apostle at Rome 156 

25 Acontius, a sacristan of the same church . . 158 

26 Menas the hermit 159 

27 Forty Italian peasants are slain by the Lombards 

for refusing to eat pagan sacrificial meats . . 161 

28 Many captives are killed because they refuse to 
worship a goat's head 162 

29 An Arian bishop is stricken with blindness . . 163 

30 An Arian church in Rome is consecrated for 
Catholic worship 164 

3 1 King Hermangild is put to death for the faith by 

his father Leuvigild, King of the Visigoths . . 166 



Xll 



32 Some bishops of Africa, who spoke in defense of 
the faith, have their tongues cut out by the Arian 
Vandals; yet their power speech remains intact . 169 

33 The servant of God Eleutherius . . . . 170 

34 The different types of compunction . . . 173 

35 Amantius, a priest of Tuscany 175 

36 Bishop Maximinian of Syracuse . . . . 177 

37 Sanctulus, a priest of Norcia 178 

38 The vision of Redemptus, Bishop of Ferentino . 185 



BOOK FOUR 

1 The spiritual truths of eternity are not accepted 
by the worldly minded, because they have no 
experimental knowledge of the truths that were 
explained to them orally 189 

2 Unbelievers do not live without faith . . . 191 

3 God created three kinds of living spirits . . 192 

4 The problem raised by Solomon's words : 'The lot 

of man and of beast is one lot' 193 

5 The soul is invisible when it leaves the body: Can 

it ever be seen? 196 

6 The presence of the soul in the body is recognized 
by the movements of the body; similarly, the life 
of the soul after death is recognized by its power 

of working miracles 199 

7 Souls at their departure from life .... 200 

8 The soul of Bishop Germanus of Capua makes its 

way to heaven 200 

9 The soul of the monk Speciosus on its way to 
eternity 201 



Xlll 



10 The soul of a recluse 201 

11 The soul of the abbot Spes 201 

12 The soul of the priest Ursinus 203 

13 The soul of Probus, Bishop of Rieti ... 204 

14 The death of God's handmaid Galla ... 205 

15 The death of the paralytic Servulus . . . 207 

16 The death of God's handmaid Romula ... 208 

17 The death of the holy virgin Tarsilla . . . 210 

18 The death of the little girl Musa . . . . 211 

19 Heaven is closed to some children because their 
parents neglect to train them properly; the 
example of the boy who blasphemed . . . 212 

20 The death of the servant of God Stephen . . 213 

21 The soul's merit is sometimes not shown at the 

time of death but manifested later . . . . 215 

22 Abbot Valentio's two monks 215 

23 The death of the abbot Suranus . . . . 215 

24 The death of the deacon of the church in Marsia 216 

25 The death of the man of God who was sent to 
Samaria 217 

26 Our belief that the souls of the just are admitted 

to heaven before they are reunited with the body 217 

27 The manner in which the dying foretell the 
future; the death of the lawyer Cumquodeus; the 
visions of Gerontius and Mellitus; the death of 
the boy Armentarius who had received the gift of 
speaking various languages 219 

28 The death of Count Theophane . . . . 223 

29 Our belief that after death the souls of the just 

go to heaven and those of the unjust go to hell 225 

30 On what grounds we believe that a physical fire 
torments incorporeal spirits 225 



xiv 



31 The death of the Arian King Theodoric . . 227 

32 The death of Reparatus 228 

33 The death of a city official and the burning of 

his grave 229 

34 In eternity the good recognize the good and the 
wicked recognize the wicked 231 

35 The dying monk who saw the Prophets . . . 233 

36 Sometimes souls that were unacquainted before 
recognize each other at the time of death because 
of their equality before God either in blame or 
merit; the death of John, Ursus, Eumorphius, 

and Stephen 233 

37 Some persons are summoned to death by mistake; 
the summoning and recall of the monk Peter; 
Stephen's death and return to life; the soldier's 
vision 237 

38 A dwelling is built for Deusdedit on Saturday . 242 

39 The punishment of Sodom 243 

40 Some souls have a glimpse of eternal punishments 
even before they are separated from the body; the 
young man Theodore; the death of Chrysaorius 

and a monk of Isauria 244 

41 After death, purgatory 247 

42 The soul of the deacon Paschasius .... 249 

43 Why it is that so many truths about souls become 
clear toward the end of the world whereas they 
previously were hidden from us 250 

44 The location of hell 252 

45 There is one type of fire in hell, not several . . 253 

46 The souls confined to hell burn forever . . . 254 

47 The soul does not die even though punished with 
death 257 



xv 



48 A saintly man is filled with dread at the hour of 
death 259 

49 Strength to overcome the fear of death is given 
through revelations; the monks Anthony, Meru- 

lus, and John 259 

50 The question of observing dreams; their types . 261 

51 A man promised a long life in a dream dies soon 
thereafter 262 

52 The question of burial in church and its benefit 

to souls 263 

53 A nun is buried in the Church of St. Lawrence 

the Martyr; half of her body is burned . . . 263 

54 The burial of the patrician Valerian . . . 264 

55 The body of Valentine is cast out of the church in 
which it was buried 264 

56 The dyer's body disappears after being buried in 
church 265 

57 The one efficacious means of obtaining absolution 
for souls after death; a poor soul begs the priest of 
Centum Cellae for help through the holy Sacri- 
fice; the soul of the monk Justus .... 266 

58 The life and death of Bishop Cassius ... 270 

59 A prisoner is freed from chains while Mass is 
being offered for him; the boatman Varaca is 
saved from shipwreck through the holy Sacrifice 

of the Mass . 270 

60 The power of the Mass and its mystery . . . 272 

61 True contrition of heart is required during the 
Sacrifice; the need of guarding against distracting 
thoughts after compunction 273 

62 Forgive others their faults and yours will also be 
forgiven 274 



xvi 



DIALOGUES 



Translated by 

ODO JOHN ZIMMERMAN, 0. S, B., Ph.D. 

Calegio del Tepeyac 
Mexico, D. F. 



BOOK ONE 




OME MEN OF THE WORLD had left me feeling quite 
depressed one day with all their noisy wrangling. 
In their business dealings they try, as a rule, to make 
us pay what we obviously do not owe them. In my grief I 
retired to a quiet spot congenial to my mood, where I could 
consider every unpleasant detail of my daily work and review 
all the causes of my sorrow as they crowded unhindered 
before my eyes. 

I sat there for a long time in silence and was still deeply 
dejected when my dear son, the deacon Peter, came in. He 
had been a very dear friend to me from his early youth and 
was my companion in the study of sacred Scripture. Seeing 
me so sick at heart he asked, 'Have you met with some new 
misfortune? You seem unusually sad/ 

Teter,' I replied, 'this daily sadness of mine is always old 
and always new: old by its constant presence, new by its 
continual increase. With my unhappy soul languishing under 
a burden of distractions, I recall those earlier days in the 
monastery where all the fleeting things of time were in a 
world below me, and I could rise far above the vanities of 



4 SAINT GREGORY 

life. Heavenly thoughts would fill my mind, and while still 
held within the body I passed beyond its narrow confines in 
contemplation. Even death, which nearly everyone regards 
as evil, I cherished as the entrance into life and the reward 
for labor. 

'But now all the beauty of that spiritual repose is gone, 
and the contact with worldly men and their affairs, which 
is a necessary part of my duties as bishop, has left my soul 
defiled with earthly activities. I am so distracted with external 
occupations in my concern for the people that even when 
my spirit resumes its striving after the interior life it always 
does so with less vigor. Then, as I compare what I have lost 
with what I must now endure, the contrast only makes my 
present lot more burdensome. I am tossed about on the waves 
of a heavy sea, and my soul is like a helpless ship buffeted 
by raging winds. When I recall my former way of life, it 
is as though I were once more looking back toward land 
and sighing as I beheld the shore. It only saddens rne the 
more to find that, while flung about by the mighty waves 
that carry me along, I can hardly catch sight any longer of 
the harbor I have left. 

'Such, in fact, is generally the way our mind declines. 
First we lose a prized possession but remain aware of the loss; 
then as we go along even the remembrance of it fades, and 
so at the end we are unable any longer to recall what was 
once actually in our possession. That is why, as I have said, 
when we sail too far from shore, we can no longer see the^ 
peaceful harbor we have left. At times(I find myself reflecting, 
with even greater regret ^n the life that others lead who 
have totally abandoned the present world. Seeing the heights 
these men have reached only makes me realize the lowly 
state of my own soul. It was by spending their days in 



DIALOGUE ONE 3 

seclusion that most of them pleased their Creator. And to 
keep them from dulling their spiritual fervor with human 
activities, God chose to leave them free from worldly occupa- 
tions. 3 / 

And now I think it will be best if I present the conversation 
that took place between us by simply putting our names 
before the questions and the answers we exchanged. 

PETER 

I do not know of any persons in Italy whose lives give 
evidence of extraordinary spiritual powers, and therefore I 
cannot imagine with whom you are comparing yourself so 
regretfully. This land of ours has undoubtedly produced its 
virtuous men, but to my knowledge no signs or miracles have 
been performed by any of them; or, if they have been, they 
were till now kept in such secrecy that we cannot even tell 
if they occurred. 

GREGORY 

On the contrary, Peter, the day would not be long enough 
for me to tell you about those saints whose holiness has been 
well established and whose lives are known to me either from 
my own observations or from the reports of good, reliable 
witnesses. 

PETER 

Would you do me the favor, then, of saying at least some- 
thing about them? Interrupting the study and explanation 
of the Scriptures for such a purpose should not cause grave 



D SAINT GREGORY 

concern, for the amount of edification to be gained from a 
description of miracles is just as great. An explanation of 
holy Scripture teaches us how to attain virtue and persevere 
in it, whereas a description of miracles shows us how this 
acquired virtue reveals itself in those who persevere in it. 
Then, too, the lives of the saints are often more effective 
than mere instruction for inspiring us to love heaven as our 
home. Hearing about their example will generally be helpful 
in two ways. In the first place, as we compare ourselves with 
those who have gone before, we are filled with a longing 
for the future life; secondly, if we have too high an opinion 
of our own worth,, it makes us humble to find that others 
have done better. 

GREGORY 

I shall not hesitate to narrate what I have learned from 
worthy men. In this I am only following the consecrated 
practice of the Scriptures, where it is perfectly clear that 
Mark and Luke composed their Gospels, not as eyewitnesses, 
but on the word of others. Nevertheless, to remove any 
grounds for doubt on the part of my readers, I am going 
to indicate on whose authority each account is based. You 
should bear in mind, however, that in some instances I retain 
only the substance of the original narrative; in others, the 
words as well. For if I had always kept to the exact wording, 
the crude language used by some would have been ill suited 
to my style of writing. The following narrative I obtained 
from elderly men who are highly respected. 

(1) On the estate of the late Senator Venantius, in the 
district of Samnium, lived a tenant whose son Honoratus, 
when only a boy, had cultivated a deep love for his heavenly 



DIALOGUE ONE / 

home by the practice of abstinence. As he advanced in virtue 
he curbed his tongue from idle talk, and his abstinence from 
meat enabled him to gain mastery over his flesh. One day 
his father and mother invited their neighbors to dinner. When 
the meat was served, Honoratus would not take any, prefer- 
ring to continue in his self-denial. His parents began to laugh 
at him and asked, 'Why can't you eat what is set before 
you? Do you expect us to have fish up here in the mountains? 3 
For where they were living fish was not to be had. 

Just then the supply of water for the meal gave out. So, 
as was customary there, a servant took a wooden bucket to 
the spring to get some. As it was filling it a fish slipped in. 
When he got back and poured out the water in the presence 
of all, to their amazement they saw the fish, which was 
large enough to supply Honoratus with food for an entire 
day. His parents did not say another word in derision but 
instead were filled with esteem for his abstinence. Thus the 
man of God was cleared of dishonor and ridicule by the 
discovery of a fish in that mountainous region. 

His unusual progress in holiness and the miracles he per- 
formed soon led Venantius to grant him his freedom. Hono- 
ratus then built a monastery at Fondi, where he was abbot 
of nearly 200 monks and edified the entire countryside by 
his saintly life. 

One time, for example, a huge mass of rock had broken 
loose from the mountain that towered high above the monas- 
tery and, as it rolled down, threatened to demolish the build- 
ings and kill the monks. The holy abbot raised his right hand 
toward it and with the sign of the cross opposed its fall, all 
the while invoking the name of Christ. By so doing, as the 
devout Lawrence assured me, he stopped it where it was on 
the steep mountainside. Today the huge rock still appears 



8 SAINT GREGORY 

to be on the verge of rolling down, for nothing can be seen 
there that would block its fall. 

PETER 

I should think this saintly man would have needed some- 
one to instruct him before he could become a spiritual guide 
for others. 

GREGORY 

As far as I know he had no one, but then, the gift of the 
Holy Spirit is not restricted by any law. According to sound 
monastic practice, a person should not presume to become 
a superior until he has learned submission; if he does not 
know how to obey, he should not be requiring obedience of 
others. Yet there are times when the Spirit directs a soul 
entirely from within. In such cases the guidance of this divine 
Teacher supplies for the absence of any human instruction. 
Weaker souls, however, must not try to imitate this freedom 
in their own lives. For if, on the vain presumption that they, 
too, are filled with the Holy Spirit, they refuse to be guided 
by another human being, they will only become teachers of 
error. The soul that is really filled with the Spirit of God 
will easily be recognized by its miraculous powers and humil- 
ity. Where these two signs of holiness are found to perfection 
they show beyond a doubt that God is truly present. John 
the Baptist, for example, did not have an instructor, either, 
as far as we can tell from sacred Scripture. Even the divine 
Master, who is Truth Itself, did not make John one of His 
disciples as He did the Apostles, whom He taught through 
His human presence. Instead, Christ left him free of these 



DIALOGUE ONE 9 

external ties and continued to instruct him by divine inspira- 
tion. Moses, too, after being taught in the desert, received 
instructions from an angel, not from a human being. 1 But, 
as I said before, examples like these are rather to be admired 
by weaker souls than imitated. 

PETER 

I am glad you discussed that point. Tell me, though, did 
any of the saint's disciples later follow in his footsteps? 

GREGORY 

(2) There was Libertinus, a highly respected man. He 
had lived as a disciple under Honoratus and received his 
training from him. Later, in the time of King Totila, he 
became prior of the the monastery of Fondi. Although the 
numerous miracles ascribed to him by many trustworthy 
men are commonly known, I will add a few that I heard 
from the devout Lawrence whom I mentioned previously. 
This Lawrence is still alive and tells me a great deal about 
Libertinus, for the two had been intimate friends at Fondi. 
The following incident just occurs to me. 

Libertinus once was going through Samniurn, taking care 
of some business matters for the monastery. When Darida, 
a Gothic commander, came to the same region with his 
army, some of his men, seeing Libertinus riding past, made 
him dismount and robbed him even of his horse. Far from 
showing any resentment at the loss of the animal, the saintly 
man offered them his rider's whip, also, saying, 'Here, take 

1 Cf. Exod. 23.20-23. 



10 SAINT GREGORY 

this, too. You will need it to drive the horse.' Then he knelt 
down to pray. 

The soldiers rode off at a rapid pace and soon came to the 
Volturno River. There the horses came to a stop and would 
not go down to the water, even though the riders struck 
them with their lances and dug their spurs into their flanks 
until the blood flowed. Spurs and whips were useless. A 
plunge down a fatal precipice would not have seemed mor 
terrifying to the horses. After the soldiers had worked them- 
selves into a state of exhaustion with these useless efforts, one 
of them remarked that they were suffering this setback 
because of the wrong they had done to the man of God. 
Without further delay they turned back to find Libertinus. 
He was still on his- knees praying. To their demands that he 
get up and take his horse, he answered, 'Go in peace. I have 
no need of a horse.' But they dismounted, lifted the protest- 
ing prior back onto his own horse and rode off again. This 
time, when they reached the banks of the Volturno, the 
horses dashed through the water as though the river bed 
were completely dry. And so, after this one stolen horse had 
been given back to its rightful master, all the soldiers again 
received full mastery over their own horses. 

It was during these years, too, that Buccelin 2 with his 
Franks arrived in Campania. They heard rumors that Liber- 
tinus had large sums of money hidden away in his monastery 
at Fondi. So, breaking into the chapel, they began angrily 
to shout his name, not knowing that he was lying prostrate 
in prayer on the chapel floor. The remarkable thing is that 
in their mad search they kept stumbling against him without 
been able to see him. Frustrated in their blindness, they left 
the monastery empty-handed. 

2 He had entered Italy in 553. 



DIALOGUE ONE 1 1 

At another time his abbot, the successor of Honoratus, 
asked him to go to Ravenna to take care of some business 
matters for the monastery. Now, out of veneration for his 
saintly master, Libertinus had made it a practice never to 
go anywhere without carrying on his person one of Hono- 
ratus' sandals. On his way to Ravenna it happened that he 
met a woman carrying her dead child in her arms. She 
looked at the man of God and, acting on the impulse of 
her maternal love, seized his horse by the bridle. Then, 
invoking the name of God, she solemnly declared, 'You shall 
not pass until you have brought my son back to life !' 

Libertinus, considering such a thing most unusual, was 
frightened at the oath in her petition. To complete his con- 
fusion, he discovered that he could not turn out of her way, 
try as he would. One can readily imagine the struggle that 
went on his heart where the habitual humility of his life 
now came face to face with the devotedness of a mother. Fear 
kept him from attempting to fulfill a request so unusual, 
while a feeling of compassion kept urging him to help the 
mother in her bereavement. But, thanks be to God, the pious 
mother was victorious in this struggle, and the saint, in 
being overcome, gave proof of real strength. For, if the 
devotion of the mother had not been able to conquer his 
heart, how could he have been a man of true virtue? So 
he dismounted, knelt down, and raised his hands to heaven. 
Then, taking the sandal from the folds of his garment, he 
placed it on the breast of the dead child and, as he con- 
tinued praying, the boy came back to life. Libertinus took 
him by the hand and gave him back to his weeping mother. 
After that he continued on his way to Ravenna. 



12 SAINT GREGORY 

PETER 

How can you explain this great miracle? Did the merits 
of Honoratus cause it or the prayers of Libertinus? 

GREGORY 

It was the virtue of both, combined with the woman's 
faith, that produced this striking miracle. And it is my con- 
viction that Libertinus was able to perform such a deed 
because he had learned to put greater trust in his master's 
powers than in his own. Undoubtedly he realized that his 
prayer had been answered through the spirit of Honoratus, 
whose sandal he had placed on the dead child's breast. Did 
not the Prophet Eliseus in like manner have with him the 
mantle of Elias, his master, when he came to the Jordan? 
He struck the waters but they did not part. So he quickly 
exclaimed, 'Where is now the God of Elias? 3 And striking 
the river with the mantle, he opened up a pathway through 
its waters. Now you see, Peter, how important humility is 
for working miracles. Only when he called upon his master's 
name and returned to his humble position as a disciple, 
could he exercise his master's powers and share in his mar- 
velous deeds. 

PETER 

This is very interesting. Are there, perhaps, some other 
edifying incidents in his life that you might tell us? 

3 4 Kings 2.14. 



DIALOGUE ONE 13 

GREGORY 

There are, indeed. But who is willing to imitate them? 
The virtue of patience they exemplify is, to my mind, greater 
than the power of working miracles. One day the abbot who 
succeeded Honoratus in the government of the monastery 
broke out in violent anger against Libertinus. Not finding 
a rod, he seized a footstool and struck Libertinus on the 
head and face, leaving them swollen and disfigured. In spite 
of the bruises, the saintly man retired to his bed without a 
word. 

Arrangements, however, had been made for him to take 
care of some business for the monastery the next day. So, 
after the morning office, Libertinus came to the abbot's bed 
and humbly asked for the blessing. The abbot, realizing the 
great honor and esteem this monk enjoyed in the community 
and suspecting that the unjust treatment was causing him 
to leave, asked him where he was going. 

'To take care of the business matters we arranged yester- 
day, 3 answered Libertinus. C I promised to do it today, and 
I should now like to go and fulfill my obligation.' 

After reflecting deeply upon his own harshness and severity 
and upon the humility and gentleness of Libertinus, the abbot 
rose quickly from his cot, knelt at the feet of his monk and 
humbly confessed that he was guilty of sin for having inflicted 
cruel injuries on a holy man. But Libertinus cast himself to 
the ground and protested that the bruises were due to his 
own faults and not the result of the abbot's severity. This 
incident turned out to be a lesson in humility for the abbot, 
who thereafter became a most gentle superior. 

On his way to settle the business at hand, Libertinus met 
some of his friends and admirers who were much alarmed 



14 SAINT GREGORY 

at his condition and asked the reason for the bruises. Resolved 
to remain truthful and at the same time conceal the abbot's 
weakness, Libertinus answered, 'Yesterday evening my own 
sinfulness caused me to strike my face against a footstool. 
As a result you see these swellings/ And so without telling 
a lie he saved the abbot's good name. 

PETER 

After hearing all the miracles you relate of Libertinus, is 
it not quite natural to suppose that there were some in this 
large community to imitate his virtuous life? 

GREGORY 

(3) Surely you remember Felix, the hunchback. He was 
prior of the monastery a short time ago. I recall many of the 
remarkable stories he used to tell me about the monks there. 
But I must leave them unsaid and get on with other matters. 
There is one, however, that I must not pass over in silence. 

At the monastery there was a very saintly man who acted 
as gardener. Now a thief used to come regularly and climb 
over the fence and steal his vegetables. Since the holy monk 
planted many vegetables which he could not find later, and 
noticed that some were trampled underfoot while others 
were stolen, he made a tour of inspection through the whole 
garden and found the place where the thief used to enter. 
On continuing his inspection, he found a serpent and com- 
manded it to follow him. When he came to the thief's place 
of entrance he said, e ln the name of Jesus Christ I charge 
you to guard this entrance and keep the thief out.' 



DIALOGUE ONE 15 

Immediately, the serpent stretched itself full length across 
the path, and the monk returned to the monastery. 

During the noon hour while all were resting, the thief 
came as usual. He climbed the fence and just as he was 
going to put his foot down into the garden, he saw the 
serpent lying in his way. Terrified at the sight, he fell 
backwards over the fence. But his shoe got caught in the 
pickets so that he hung there, head downwards, unable to 
right himself. When the gardener returned he found him 
in this awkward position. But before turning to the thief, 
the saintly monk spoke to the serpent. 'Thanks be to God,' 
he said. 'You did just as I told you. Now you may go. 3 
And the serpent crawled away. Then going to the thief, 
he said, c What has happened here, brother? It is God who 
has delivered you into my hands. How did you dare to come 
so often to steal the fruits of our monastic labor? 3 With 
this he loosed the shoe from the picket and let the thief 
gently to the ground. 'Follow me,' he then told him and led 
the way to the entrance. There he graciously gave him the 
vegetables he had been trying to steal. Go, now/ he said, 
c and do not steal again. If you have need of vegetables, 
come to me here in the garden and I will give you with 
God's blessing what you are wrongly trying to get by theft. 3 

PETER 

I see now how unfounded my previous impression was that 
Italy had no wonder-workers. 



16 SAINT GREGORY 

GREGORY 

Fortunatus, the saintly abbot of the monastery known as 
Cicero's Bath, and some other holy men are the sources for 
the following account. 

(4) A most devout man by the name of Equitius, of the 
province of Valeria, was held in highest esteem by all because 
of his great holiness. For this reason, too, he had been made 
abbot over many monasteries of that province. Fortunatus 
was well acquainted with him. Finding himself much dis- 
tressed as a young man by violent temptations of the flesh, 
Equitius turned with all the greater zeal to fervent prayer. 
One night while he was earnestly begging God for aid in 
this matter, he saw himself made a eunuch while an angel 
stood by. Through this vision he realized that all disturbances 
of the flesh had been taken away, and from that time on 
he was a complete stranger to temptations of this kind as 
though his body were no longer subject to the tendencies 
of human nature. 

Relying on this virtue, which God had helped him to 
acquire, he took upon himself the guidance of communities 
of women just as he had done of monks. Yet he warned 
his disciples to be distrustful of themselves and not to be too 
eager to follow his example, for they would be the cause of 
their own downfall in trying to do what God had not given 
them the power to do. 

At the time when certain magicians were put under arrest 
in Rome, Basil, whose skill in magic arts was surpassed by 
none, fled to Valeria disguised as a monk. There he ap- 
proached the revered Castorius, Bishop of Amiternum, and 
asked to be placed under the care of Abbot Equitius with 
a recommendation for entrance into his community. So the 



DIALOGUE ONE 17 

bishop, taking Basil with him, went to the monastery and 
asked Equitius to accept him as a member of his community. 
After one glance at Basil the holy abbot said, 'Father, the 
man whom you recommend looks to me like a devil and not 
a monk.' 

To this the bishop answered, 'You are trying to find an 
excuse to refuse my request.' 

'No,' quickly replied the abbot, 'I am only describing this 
person as I see him. But that you may not think me unwill- 
ing to obey, I will do as you command. 5 And so Basil was 
received into the monastery. 

A few days later the man of God went a greater distance 
than usual from the monastery on his missionary journey 
urging the faithful to turn their hearts Godward. During 
his absence, a nun in one of the convents under his care, 
a person endowed with a beauty that corrupts with the flesh, 
took sick, and a high fever caused her to become extremely 
restless. She no longer confined herself to loud shouting but 
became hysterical. C I am going to die, 5 she kept calling, 
"unless the monk Basil comes immediately to cure me. 5 

In the absence of their saintly abbot the monks would not 
let anyone of the community go to the convent, least of all 
this new arrival whose manner of life they did not yet know. 
Instead they quickly sent a message to Equitius, informing 
him that this nun was ill with a high fever and anxiously 
demanding a visit from the monk Basil. The abbot listened 
to the messenger and gave his answer with a knowing smile : 
C I always said he was a devil and not a monk. Go and bid 
him leave the monastery. About the nun who was sick and 
hysterical you need not worry. The fever has left her now 
and she is no longer asking for Basil. 3 



18 SAINT GREGORY 

The monk returned and discovered that the nun had been 
cured when the words of healing were spoken. 

In this act Equitius followed the example of his divine 
Master, who, when invited to attend the ruler's son, restored 
him to health by a word, so that the father went home and 
found that his son had been healed the same hour at which 
he had heard from Christ Himself the life-giving words. 4 

In obedience to the abbot's command, the monks with 
one accord expelled Basil from the monastery. Later on, this 
imposter declared that through his magic arts he had fre- 
quently suspended Equitius 3 monastery in mid-air, but had 
never been able to injure any of his monks. Not long after, 
he was burned to death as a magician as a result of the 
fervent zeal of the Christian people of Rome. 

One day a nun of this same convent, on entering the 
garden, found some lettuce there which appealed to her 
taste. Forgetting to say the customary blessing, she began to 
eat of it greedily. Immediately the Devil threw her to the 
ground in a fit of pain. The other nuns, seeing her in agony, 
quickly sent word to Abbot Equitius to come with all speed 
and help them with his prayers. As soon as the holy man 
entered the garden, the Devil, using the nun's voice, began 
to justify himself. 'I haven't done anything!' he kept shout- 
ing. C I haven't done anything! I was sitting here on the 
lettuce when she came and ate me!' 

Full of indignation, the man of God commanded him to 
depart and vacate the place he held in this handmaid of 
almighty God. The Devil did so at once and after that could 
no longer exercise his powers over her. 

A nobleman from Norcia by the name of Felix, the father 
of Castorius who is now with us here at Rome, noticed that 

4 Cf. John 4.50. 



DIALOGUE ONE 19 

Equitius was not in holy orders, yet traveled about from one 
place to another preaching the Gospel most zealously. Because 
they were good friends, Felix one day asked him how he 
dared to preach, since he was not in holy orders and did 
not have permission from the Bishop of Rome under whose 
jurisdiction he was. 

Obliged to answer so direct a question, the holy man 
explained how he had been authorized to preach. { I have 
considered well,' he said, 'all the objections you ,are raising. 
But one night a young man of radiant beauty appeared to 
me in a vision and placed a lancet on my tongue and said, 
"Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. Go forth and 
preach. 5 ' 5 Since that day I could not be silent about God 
even if I so wished. 5 

PETER 

I should like to know the miracles performed by this man 
so blessed with God's grace. 

GREGORY 

The deed depends on the gift and not the gift on the 
deed; otherwise, grace would no longer be grace. Gifts 
precede every deed, even though the gifts may be increased 
by the deed that follows. But that you may not be kept from 
knowing this holy man's life, I refer you to Albinus, the 
esteemed Bishop of Rieti, who is well acquainted with it. 
There are also a number of other persons who could inform 
you. 

But why do you look for more deeds when the purity of 

5 Cf. Isa. 51.16; 59.21. 



20 SAINT GREGORY 

his life was as remarkable as the fervor of his preaching? 
The zeal that burned within him to harvest souls for God 
was strong enough to enable him to govern his monasteries 
and to find time, besides, for preaching in the churches of 
the surrounding hamlets and villages and for visiting even 
private dwellings, everywhere turning the hearts of the faith- 
ful to love their eternal heavenly home. His attire was poor 
and mean. Anyone who did not recognize him might pass 
him by without so much as returning his greeting. Whenever 
he went out to preach, he would ride the poorest beast the 
monastery possessed. Instead of a bridle he used a halter, 
and sheepskins served for saddle. Two leather pouches, in 
which he carried the books of sacred Scripture, hung down 
from his shoulders on either side. Whenever he arrived at 
a place, he would open these books and from the fountains 
of their spiritual doctrine would refresh the minds and souls 
of his hearers. 

Rumors of his reputation for preaching reached Rome. 
Soon the clergy of that city began to complain. In words of 
flattery that corrupt those who listen to their charms, they 
said to the Pope, c Who is this rustic who presumes authority 
to preach? Ignorant as he is, he dares to usurp a right reserved 
for you alone, our apostolic Lord. If it so please you, let an 
order be issued for him to come to Rome where he will learn 
to understand the discipline of the Church.' 

Flattery, if it is not immediately cast from the mind, easily 
captivates the soul of one who is preoccupied with a multitude 
of affairs. And so the Pope, at the persuasion of the clergy, 
gave his consent to have Equitius summoned to Rome that 
he might learn to limit his preaching properly. 

Julian, who was protector 6 of the Church rights at the 

6 An ecclesiastical official who acted as spokesman for the Church 
when its rights were in question. 



DIALOGUE ONE 



21 



time, and later Bishop of Sabina, was sent to carry out the 
command. The Pope gave him special orders to conduct 
Equitius to Rome with the respect due a man of God and 
not to let him suffer any ill treatment because of the summons. 
Eager to comply promptly with the wishes of the clergy in 
regard to Equitius, Julian hurried off. Arriving at the monas- 
tery, he found the scribes busy at their work, but the abbot 
himself was not there. When he asked for Abbot Equitius 
he was told that he was down in the valley directly below 
the monastery, cutting hay. 

Now, Julian had among his servants a proud and insolent 
fellow whom he himself could manage only with difficulty. 
And this was the one he chose to go quickly and summon 
the abbot. Hastening to the meadow in a fierce mood, he 
found all the monks busy cutting hay. At his demand to 
see Abbot Equitius, the monks pointed him out. But no sooner 
had he caught sight of the man of God in the distance than 
the servant felt himself overcome by an unusual fear. In 
fact, he became weak with terror and could hardly keep 
from sinking to the ground. Coming to the man of God in 
this condition he humbly threw his arms around the abbot's 
knees, kissed them and announced that his master had come 
to see him. 

The abbot greeted him in turn and said, 'Take some fresh 
hay with you for the horses. As you see, there is still a little 
work to be done. I will follow you as soon as it is finished.' 

At the monastery, Julian wondered what was keeping his 
servant so long. When he finally saw him coming up from 
the meadow carrying a bundle of hay on his shoulders, he 
became exceedingly angry. 'What is the meaning of this? 3 
he shouted. I did not send you to fetch hay! I told you to 
call the abbot!' 



22. SAINT GREGORY 

'The abbot will be coming in a short time/ answered the 
boy. 

Just then a man in hobnailed boots, with a scythe hanging 
over his shoulders, came into view. The boy pointed toward 
him, indicating to his master that it was Abbot Equitius. 
Disdainful of the abbot's rustic appearance, Julian was pre- 
paring to give him the reception he deserved. But as soon 
as the abbot came near, Julian felt an overpowering terror 
in his soul. He trembled and his tongue could scarcely 
formulate the message he had come to deliver. His pride 
was broken. Going forward, he knelt down at the abbot's 
feet, begged for his prayers, and at the same time delivered 
the Pope's message summoning him to Rome. This news 
evoked a prayer of thanksgiving from the heart of Equitius, 
who declared himself blessed from heaven by this message 
from his Holiness. He ordered horses to be saddled at once 
for the journey, insisting that Julian start out with him 
immediately. But the latter declined, saying that it was quite 
impossible. Exhausted as he was, further travel on that day 
was out of question. 

'You disappoint me, my son,' replied Equitius. 'For if we 
do not set out today, tomorrow will be too late.' And so the 
tired executor of the Pope's command compelled the servant 
of God to wait that night at the monastery. 

The next day at dawn a messenger, with his horse panting 
from a long journey, came to deliver a letter to Julian. 
It contained an order not to trouble the servant of God, but 
to leave him at his monastery. When Julian asked why his 
instructions had been reversed, he was told that, the very 
night he had set out from Rome, the Pope had been terrified 
in a vision for having summoned the man of God. So Julian 
rose quickly and, commending himself to the prayers of 



DIALOGUE ONE 23 

Equitius, said, The Holy Father wishes to spare you the 
fatigue of this journey.' 

The words grieved the holy abbot. 'Did I not say yester- 
day,' he declared, 'that if we did not set out at once we 
should not set out at all?' Then, as a mark of charity, he 
detained the reluctant Julian at the monastery for a while 
to accept its hospitality in return for the trouble and fatigue 
he had endured. 

Now mark well, Peter, how those who have learned to 
despise themselves in this life enjoy the protection of God. 
Since they are not ashamed to accept dishonor among men, 
they receive a spiritual rank among most honorable citizens. 
On the other hand, God sees how truly despicable those men 
are who, moved by a desire for the empty glory of this life, 
plume themselves with greatness in their own and in their 
neighbors 3 eyes. It is to such that Christ, the Truth, says: 'You 
are always courting the approval of men, but God sees your 
hearts; what is highly esteemed among men is an abomina- 
tion in God's sight.' 7 

PETER 

I am surprised that the great Pope could have been misled 
about so great a saint. 

GREGORY 

Why are you surprised, Peter, that we who are but human 
make mistakes? Have you forgotten that it was David's 
reliance on the untruthful words of a servant that caused 
him to pronounce sentence against the innocent son of 
Jonathan? 8 And David had the spirit of prophecy. But, since 

7 Luke 16.15. 

8 Cf. 2 Kings 16.3; 19.27. 



24 SAINT GREGORY 

David did this, we can be sure that in God's secret judgment 
he acted justly, even though we cannot see the justice of it 
with our human reason. Why should we be surprised, then, 
if we who are not prophets are sometimes led astray by 
deceitful men? An important point to consider is that the 
mind of a superior is distracted by a world of cares, and 
once the attention is preoccupied with a variety of matters 
it becomes less observant of details. One who is occupied 
with a multitude of affairs is all the more liable to be misled 
in regard to any one of them. 

PETER 

That is very true. 

GREGORY 

I must also tell you what Valentine, my former abbot, told 
me about this holy man Equitius, who, as he says, lay buried 
in the Church of St. Lawrence the Martyr. Once a farmer set 
a box of grain on the tomb without consideration or respect 
for the renowned saint. Suddenly a strong gust of wind 
came up, seized the box and hurled it far away, without so 
much as moving another article in the church out of place. 
This was a clear sign to all that the saint whose body rested 
there was a man of great virtue. 

The following details I heard from the same Fortunatus 
who was mentioned previously in my story. He has become 
very dear to me because of his age and the simplicity of his 
life. When the Lombards entered Valeria, the monks fled 
from Equitius' monastery to his tomb in the Church of St. 
Lawrence. Wild with rage, the barbarians broke into the 



DIALOGUE ONE 25 

church and forced the monks out into the open, intending 
to torture or kill them. With a groan of anguish one of the 
monks exclaimed sadly, 'O blessed Equitius! Do you want 
us to be driven out in this way? Why do you not come to 
defend us? 3 

At the sound of his voice, an unclean spirit seized the 
Lombards. They fell to the ground and were tormented 
relentlessly until all, even those outside, came to realize what 
was happening. After that, they no longer dared to profane 
the holy place. And the saintly man who at this time defended 
his disciples was later to help many who fled to his tomb 
for aid. 

( 5 ) Another story was told me by a fellow bishop of mine 
who had been a monk in the city of Ancona and had lived 
the religious life with extraordinary zeal. Some of our older 
men who come from there will bear me out in this statement. 

Near the city of Ancona there was a church dedicated to 
St. Stephen the Martyr. The sacristan of this church, a pious 
man named Constantius, was known far and wide for his 
sanctity. Having renounced the things of this world com- 
pletely, he directed his soul heavenward with all the powers 
of his mind. 

One day the church's oil supply ran out, and Gonstantius 
had nothing with which to fill the lamps. So he took water, 
poured some into each lamp, and fixed a wick in the middle 
as usual. Then he lighted the lamps and they all began to 
burn as if they were fed with oil. Try to imagine now. 
Peter, how great must have been the merits of the man 
who could change the nature of a physical element. 



26 SAINT GREGORY 

PETER 

This is indeed wonderful. Now I should like to learn about 
the humility in the heart of this man whose life was most 
remarkable in external manifestations of holiness. 

GREGORY 

You do well in looking among the virtues to find a man's 
true spirit, for almost invariably the miracles a man performs 
cause severe temptations to his spirit. But you will quickly 
understand the greatness of Constantius' humility if you 
listen to but one deed of his. 

PETER 

Since you have described his miracles so well, I am eager 
to hear what you have to say about his humility of soul. 

GREGORY 

The renown of Constantius 3 holiness spread for miles 
around and many people were eagerly looking for an op- 
portunity to see him. One day a farmer came a great distance 
for this very purpose. It happened that at the time the holy 
man was standing on a kind of ladder, busily trimming the 
lamps in the church. He was short of stature, frail and slight 
in appearance. The farmer kept asking for someone to show 
him the saint. So those who knew Constantius pointed him 
out. But, as dull minds measure the quality of a man by his 
physical appearance, the farmer could not make himself 
believe that this small and lowly figure was the great Con- 



DIALOGUE ONE 27 

stantius of whom he had heard so much. In his unlettered 
mind he could not reconcile what he had heard with what 
he now saw. He felt that a person of such a renown could 
not possibly be so small in appearance. Therefore, when the 
others insisted that this man really was the saint, the fanner 
laughed in derision and said, C I expected to see a man, but 
this fellow has nothing manly about him.' 

Constantius, overhearing these words, left the lamps as 
they were, hurried down the ladder and threw his arms most 
affectionately around the farmer and with a friendly kiss 
thanked him for having expressed his opinion so openly. 'You 
are the only one,' he said, 'who has looked at me with open 
eyes.' 

The degree of humility Constantius had acquired must be 
judged from this act, since it shows the great love he had 
for one who despised him. It takes an insult to prove our 
hidden qualities. For while the proud repoice in honors, the 
humble are usually happy to be despised. In fact, when they 
are little esteemed in the eyes of others, they find good 
reason to rejoice, because then they see that the judgment 
they have already formed of themselves is being confirmed. 

PETER 

This man was truly great because of his miracles, but I 
see now that he was even greater by reason of his humility. 

GREGORY 

(6) Marcellinus, another saintly man, was Bishop of 
Ancona. Because he suffered from the gout, walking was 
extremely painful for him; so, whenever necessary, his friends 



28 SAINT GREGORY 

carried Mm from place to place. It happened one day that 
due to some carelessness a fire broke out in the city. As its 
flames grew more and more violent, people came running 
from all sides to put it out. But in spite of all their efforts 
to extinguish it, the fire continued to spread and began to 
threaten the whole city with destruction. Advancing quickly 
into all the neighboring areas, the conflagration had soon 
destroyed a large part of the city. No one could stop it now. 
Then the bishop came to the scene, carried by his friends. 
The crisis forced him to act. c Set me down in the path of 
the fire, 3 he commanded. They obeyed and put him down 
in a place toward which the full force of the fire seemed 
to be driving. Now, strange to say, the flames doubled back 
over themselves as if thereby to indicate that they could not 
pass over the bishop. Once the fire was checked at this 
point, it advanced no farther, but gradually died away with- 
out causing further destruction. Now, Peter, consider what 
great sanctity was required for a sick man to sit there and 
by prayers subdue the flames. 

PETER 
I marvel at the thought of it. 

GREGORY 

(7) Now I will tell you a story about a neighboring place 
as I heard it from Bishop Maximian and the elderly monk 
Laurio whom you know well. Both are living today, Laurio 
received his training under the saintly Anastasius in the 
monastery of Suppentonia near the city of Nepi. Anastasius 
himself was a friend of Nonnosus, the prior of the monastery 



DIALOGUE ONE 29 

which stands on Mount Soracte. These two men, noble in 
character and zealous in the pursuit of virtue, living as they 
did in neighboring monasteries, frequently found occasion 
to associate with each other. Nonnosus in his monastery 
lived under a very severe abbot whose harshness he bore with 
remarkable peace of mind. As prior he showed himself gentle 
and mild toward the brethren, while his humility frequently 
softened the abbot's irascible nature. Since the monastery 
was built on top of a mountain, there was not enough level 
ground for planting even a small garden. The only possible 
place was a ledge running along the mountainside, but this 
was occupied by a huge rock protruding from the ground. 
One day it occured to Nonnosus that this area might suffice 
for raising at least a few vegetables, if only the rock were taken 
away. Yet he realized that even fifty pair of oxen could not 
move so huge a mass. Despairing of human efforts, he turned 
to God for help. Accordingly, he went there during the night 
and prayed fervently. In the morning, when his brother 
monks came to the place, they saw that the massive rock 
had been removed, leaving ample room for a garden. 

At another time the holy man was washing the glass lamps 
in the chapel. One of them fell from his hands and dropped 
to the floor with a crash. Fearing the violent anger of his 
abbot, Nonnosus swept the fragments together before the altar 
and knelt down in earnest prayer. When he looked up, all 
the broken pieces had been neatly fitted together into one 
unbroken whole. 

In these two miracles he imitated two other saints: St. 
Gregory, 9 who moved a mountain, and St. Donatus, 10 who 
restored a broken chalice. 



9 Gregory the Wonder-worker (d. Nov. 17, c. 270) . 
10 Bishop of Arezzo (martyred, August 7, 362) . 



30 SAINT GREGORY 

PETER 

We have new miracles, then, in imitation of the old. 
GREGORY 

I should also like to point out a similarity between the 
miracles of Nonnosus and Eliseus if you care to listen. 

PETER 

Nothing could please me more. 
GREGORY 

One day the monastery's oil supply had run out. Since 
the new crop of olives was now being harvested and the olive 
trees in their own orchard bore hardly any fruit, the abbot 
decided to let the brethren go into the neighboring orchards 
to find work. In payment for their labor they were ask a 
portion of oil for the monastery. Nonnosus, however, in all 
humility prevented this from happening, for he feared that 
the monks in going out of the monastery to seek gain would 
suffer spiritual harm. Therefore, he ordered the few olives 
that could be found in the monastery's garden to be gathered 
and put into the oil press. Whatever oil they yielded was 
to be brought to him. 

The brethren did as he wished and, collecting the oil in 
a small jar, brought it to him. Nonnosus took it and at once 
placed it in front of the altar. Then, bidding his brethren 
leave the chapel, he knelt down to pray. In a few moments 
he called them back and asked them to pour a little of the 



DIALOGUE ONE 31 

blessed oil into every jar they could find in the monastery, 
so that each might contain some of this blessed fluid. These 
jars were then closed. The next day when they were opened 
they were found full of oil. 11 

PETER 

Every day of our life we see the fulfillment of our Lord's 
words, 'My Father has never ceased working, and I too 
must be at work. 512 

GREGORY 

(8) Anastasius, whom I referred to above, was at that 
time a notary of the Church at Rome, which, by the grace 
of God is now in my care. Desiring to devote all his time 
to God alone, he gave up his public position in order to 
live the monastic life at Suppentonia, the monastery I men- 
tioned at the opening of this story. Having spent many years 
there in great piety he ruled it with utmost care when he 
was made its abbot. 

A steep mountain rose to a great height over the monastery 
and below it lay a deep chasm. Now, when the time had 
come for God to reward the labors of Anastasius, a voice 
was heard one night calling from the top of the cliff in 
prolonged tones, 'Anastasius, come!' Immediately after that, 
seven other monks were called by name in the same way. 
A short period of silence followed and then the voice sum- 
moned another monk. Since the whole community heard 
these names clearly spoken, there was no doubt in the mind 
of anyone that death awaited those who had been thus sum- 

11 Cf. 4 Kings 4.1-7. 

12 John 5.17. 



32 SAINT GREGORY 

moned. Within a few days Anastasius died. The others were 
summoned in the order in which they had been called. The 
brother whose name was heard after the interval of silence 
continued to live on for a few days after the others had 
passed away, then he, too, died. The monks now understood 
why there had been a period of silence. 

But a remarkable incident had occurred at Anastasius 5 death. 
One of the monks, not wishing to be left behind, had come 
to kneel at his bedside, pleading tearfully with him. 'By the 
God whom you are going to face soon, 3 he had said, C I beg 
you let me depart from this world within seven days after 
you have passed away.' He died about a week after Anas- 
tasius. Now, since his name had not been called by the voice 
from the cliff, it was evident that the saintly Anastasius him- 
self had obtained for this disciple of his the grace of following 
him so quickly to eternity. 

PETER 

Since this monk was not summoned with the others, yet 
was taken out of the world through the prayers of the holy 
Anastasius, what am I to conclude but that great saints are 
sometimes able to obtain what God has not predestined? 

GREGORY 

By no means! Holy men cannot obtain what has not 
been predestined. Whatever they accomplish through prayer 
has been predestined for accomplishment through prayer. 
Even our predestination to heaven has been so ordained that 
we must exert ourselves to attain it, for it is only through 



DIALOGUE ONE 33 

prayer that we obtain the kingdom decreed for us by God 
from all eternity. 

PETER 

I should like to have clearer proof that prayer can be of 
help for predestination. 

GREGORY 

What I have said, Peter, can be quickly proved. You 
know that the Lord said to Abraham, Through Isaac shall 
your descendants be called. 5 He also said to him, I will 
make you the father of a multitude of nations. 3 And again 
He promised him, C I will indeed bless you, and will surely 
multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and 
the sands on the seashore/ 13 From these statements it is 
clear that almighty God intended to increase the posterity of 
Abraham through *his son Isaac. Yet we read in the Bible, 
'Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife because she was barren. 
The Lord answered Isaac and his wife Rebecca conceived.' 14 
Now, if the increase of Abraham's people was predestined 
to come through Isaac, why did he receive a sterile wife? 
Can we not readily conclude from this that predestination 
is fulfilled through prayer, seeing that the one in whom God 
predestined the descendants of Abraham to be multiplied 
was blessed with offspring in this manner? 

13 Gen. 21.12; 17.5; 22.17. 

14 Gen. 25.21. 



34 SAINT GREGORY 

PETER 

Your reasoning has solved the problem and removed all 
my doubts. 

GREGORY 

Would you like to hear about the saints of Tuscany, their 
character and intimate knowledge of God? 

PETER 

By all means! Please tell me about them. 
GREGORY 

(9) Boniface, Bishop of Ferentino, was a very saintly man 
and a true bishop in every respect. The priest Gaudentius 
has many remarkable things to say about him, and what he 
says is all the more trustworthy because he received his 
training under this good bishop and was witness to the events 
he narrates. 

There was great poverty in Bishop Boniface's church a 
condition which in upright souls safeguards the virtue of 
humility. The only source of revenue he had was a small 
vineyard, and even that was one day struck by a severe 
hailstorm. Nearly everything in it was destroyed. There 
remained only a few clusters of grapes here and there on 
the vines. Seeing himself thus further impoverished, the 
saintly bishop entered the vineyard and thanked God sincerely 
for this added deprivation. 

When the grapes began to ripen, he set a guard over the 



DIALOGUE ONE 35 

vineyard to keep watch as usual, and asked his nephew, 
the priest Constantius, to prepare all the wine jars and wine 
casks with a fresh coating of pitch. Constantius was very 
much surprised at this, for he thought it rather foolish to 
bother about wine jars if there was going to be no wine. 
Yet he did not ask the reason for the command, but obedi- 
ently got all the vessels ready for use. 

Having gathered the grapes and brought them to the wine 
press, the man of God ordered everyone to leave the storehouse 
except a small boy who was to stay there with him to trample 
out the few handfuls of grapes. As the juice began to flow from 
the press the bishop caught it in a small vessel. By pouring 
a little of it into each of the jars and casks that had been 
prepared, he put a blessing upon all of them. Then he asked 
Constantius to have the poor gather round the wine press. 
At once the wine began to flow abundantly until all the poor 
had their needs well supplied. After that the boy came out 
of the wine press, and the bishop, having locked and sealed 
the door of the storehouse, returned to his church. 

Two days later he called Constantius again and, after 
saying a prayer, opened the door of the storehouse. The jars 
into which he had poured only a few drops of wine were 
now filled to the brim. In fact, they would have overflowed 
and flooded the entire room with wine had the bishop 
waited outside a moment longer. With a stern countenance 
he commanded the priest not to disclose the miracle to any- 
one as long as he, the bishop, was still alive. No doubt he 
feared that he would become worthless in the eyes of God 
if this miracle was to bring him honor and esteem from 
men. He wished to follow the example of our divine Master, 
who commanded His disciples to tell no one the things they 



36 SAINT GREGORY 

had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead/ 5 
thereby instructing us in the ways of humility. 

PETER 

I have been looking for an opportunity to ask why the two 
blind men who had their sight restored by Christ went out 
and 'talked of him in all the country round' 16 after they 
had been expressly commanded to tell no one. Did the only- 
begotten Son, co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, 
express in this instance a wish beyond His power to fulfill? 
Was it impossible for Him to keep this miracle hidden? 

GREGORY 

Every act of our Redeemer, performed through His human 
nature, was meant to be a pattern for our actions, so that 
in following His footsteps according to the measure of our 
ability we might walk unfalteringly along the path of our 
present lifework. And so our Lord, having performed the 
miracle, commanded the two men to tell no one, and yet 
He could not stop them from spreading the fame of it. The 
purpose of this was to show His disciples that, in following 
the example of His teaching, they should have the will to 
remain hidden in their great deeds, but that their holy deeds 
should be made public against their will, for the benefit of 
others. Thus, the desire to keep their good works hidden 
would be an expression of great humility, while the inability 
to keep them so would bring great profit to others. Our 
Lord, then, did not will anything that He was powerless to 

15 Cf. Matt. 17.9. 

16 Matt. 9.31, 



DIALOGUE ONE 



37 



fulfill; rather, in his position as teacher. He showed his 
disciples by example what they should be willing to do and 
what should be done in their regard even against their will. 

PETER 

I am delighted with your explanation. 
GREGORY 

There are still a few deeds of Bishop Boniface that should 
be included here, since we are giving his life story. Once, 
shortly before the feast of the martyr St. Proclus, Fortunatus, 
a nobleman of the city, earnestly requested the bishop to 
stop at his house for a meal after Mass at the martyr's shrine. 
The man of God could not refuse this charitable invitation. 
So, after Mass, he went to dine at Fortunatus' home. Before 
they could say grace, a man with a monkey appeared at the 
door, clashing his cymbals. He was one of the popular 
minstrels of the city who made his living by this kind of 
entertainment. Annoyed at the sound of the cymbals, the 
holy man exclaimed, Alas! That poor wretched is dead! He 
is dead, I say. I come to table and, before I have opened 
my mouth to pray, this man with a monkey at his side is 
already playing cymbals. Nevertheless, be charitable to him/ 
he added, 'and give him something to eat and drink. But 
be assured, he is dead. 5 

The unfortunate man was received into the house and 
given bread and wine, but as he crossed the threshold to 
leave, a large stone fell from the roof and struck him on the 
head. Prostrated by the blow, he was raised half-dead from 



38 SAINT GREGORY 

the ground. The next day he died. And so the bishop's words 
were fulfilled. 

You see. Peter, great reverence is due to holy men because 
they are the temples of God. When a holy man is provoked 
to anger, no less a person is angered than He who dwells 
in that temple. We must, therefore, fear the anger of the 
just from a firm convinction that the One who is present 
in them has full power to inflict whatever vengeance He 
may choose. 

At another time, the priest Constantius, having sold his 
horse, deposited the twelve gold solidi he received for it in 
his money chest for safe keeping. One day while he was away 
on business several poor people came unexpectedly to the 
house to beg for alms. The saintly Boniface, unable to find 
anything to give them, was deeply grieved, for how could 
he, the bishop, turn these wretched poor from his door empty- 
handed. Then he remembered that his nephew had sold his 
horse and put the money away in a chest. Filled with holy 
zeal, the man of God broke open the chest, took the twelve 
gold pieces and distributed them among his poor visitors. 
When Constantius came back and saw the chest broken and 
the money gone, he began to shout and scold angrily : 'Every- 
one can live peacefully in this house except me. For me that 
is impossible!' 

The commotion brought the entire household to the scene. 
The bishop tried to calm his excited nephew with reassuring 
words, but received only abusive language in return. 'All 
others can live here quietly,' he was told. 'But for me there 
is no peace in your house. Give me back my money.' 

Greatly disturbed at these words the bishop took refuge 
in the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Standing there 
with the folds of his garment stretched out over his extended 



DIALOGUE ONE 39 

arms, he begged her to give him what was needed to appease 
the anger of the irate priest. When he looked down again 
at the open folds, he saw there, to his astonishment, twelve 
solidi shining brightly like gold taken directly from the fire. 
Leaving the Church at once, he threw the gold pieces into 
the lap of the infuriated priest. 'Here, 3 he said, 'you have 
the money you demand. But mark my word. Because of your 
avarice you shall not succeed me as bishop of this church/ 

This sentence proved to be true. The priest, no doubt, was 
laying aside the money to obtain the episcopal see. The words 
of the God-fearing bishop prevailed Constantius never be- 
came bishop, but ended his life as a priest. 

At another time two Goths came to Bishop Boniface asking 
hospitality. They were going to Ravenna, they said. The 
bishop gave them a small wooden cask of wine to drink on 
the way with their meals. They drank of this every day until 
they came to Ravenna, and continued to do so during the 
few days they spent there. Finally they came back to the 
venerable bishop, carrying the cask with them. They had 
used wine every day, yet it had never failed them, just as if 
this little wooden cask itself were the source of wine, not a 
mere container being refilled. 

An elderly cleric who came from this region a short time 
ago also told me about Bishop Boniface. His account is worth 
repeating. One day, on entering his garden, the bishop found 
it covered with caterpillars. Seeing all his vegetables going 
to ruin, he turned to the caterpillars and said, C I adjure you 
in the name of our Lord God, Jesus Christ, depart from 
here and stop eating these vegetables.' In obedience to his 
voice all the caterpillars, down to the very last one, disap- 
peared from the garden. 

But why should anyone be surprised to hear what this 



40 SAINT GREGORY 

man did as bishop, when he was standing high in dignity 
before the Lord and full of manly virtues? The deeds of his 
boyhood, as they are related by the elderly cleric, cause even 
greater astonishment. 

While he was still at home with his mother, he would 
sometimes leave the house and later return without his coat 
or even without his shirt, for, as soon as he saw anyone in 
need of clothes, he would give up his own. By divesting his 
body in this way, he wished to clothe his soul in the sight 
of God with merits for heaven. His mother frequently rebuked 
him for this, telling him that it was not right to give his 
garments to the poor when he himself was in need. 

Going to the granary one day, the mother found that her 
son had distributed in alms to the poor almost all the wheat 
she had stored up that year for the family. The thought of 
having lost a whole year's food supply nearly drove her 
frantic. Boniface, the child of God, seeing her in such distress, 
tried to console her as well as he knew how. But she would 
not listen to him. So he begged her to leave the granary. 
Meanwhile, he knelt down beside the small pile of wheat 
that still remained and prayed fervently. Then he invited 
his mother to come back again into the granary. It was now 
filled to the top with a supply of grain much greater than 
before. Moved to compunction by this miracle, the mother 
thereafter urged her son to continue giving freely, since his 
prayers were so quickly and so abundantly answered. 

Boniface used to tend his mother's hens in a yard near the 
house. Frequently a fox would come from his den nearby 
and carry off some of the flock. One day when the boy 
Boniface was standing in the yard, the fox came as usual 
and took one of them. The boy quickly ran into the church 
and fell on his kness: C O God/ he prayed in a loud voice, 



DIALOGUE ONE 41 

'can you be satisfied to see me go hungry at my mother's 
table? Look! A fox is eating up all our hens!' The moment 
he finished the prayer he ran out again. Almost immediately 
the fox came back, opened his jaws to free the hen, and 
fell dead at Boniface's feet. 

PETER 

How wonderful that God should answer the prayers of 
those who hope in Him, even when they pray for childish 
favors ! 

GREGORY 

It is the way of God's providence. Peter. He grants us 
many little favors to increase our hope for greater ones. In 
this case, He heard the simple request of an upright little 
boy in order to teach him complete confidence in petitions 
of greater moment. 

PETER 

That is a charming explanation. 
GREGORY 

(10) Fortunatus, Bishop of Todi, was another man of 
great piety in Tuscany. He possessed extraordinary power 
over evil spirits, for on occasions he would expel legions of 
them, and, when they turned their violence against him 
personally, he would crush them with the weapon of incessant 
prayer. 

One of Fortunatus' intimate friends was a man named 
Julian, the protector of our church, who died here at Rome 



42 SAINT GREGORY 

a short time ago. It was from him that I learned the story 
I am going to tell you now. Because of their great friendship, 
Julian was often witness to the bishop's doings, and in later 
years he was to draw examples for our instruction from his 
delightful store of memories. 

A noble lady in the neighborhood of Tuscany had a 
daughter-in-law, who, a short time after her marriage, had 
been invited to come with her mother-in-law to the dedica- 
tion of the Church of St. Sebastian. During the night preced- 
ing the dedication she was unable to abstain from the use of 
marriage. This indulgence caused her some pangs of con- 
science in the morning, yet human respect bade her join the 
procession. So, fearing embarrassment in the sight of men 
more than the dread judgment of God, she accompanied 
her mother-in-law to the dedication of the church. As soon 
as the relics of the martyr St. Sebastian were brought into the 
chapel, the evil spirit seized the young wife and threw her 
to the ground in agony. The priest of the church, seeing her 
wretched condition, took the linen cloth from the altar to 
cover her. But the Devil immediately turned on him, too, 
for in wishing to help the woman he had exceeded the 
limits of his power. Through this experience, therefore, the 
priest was forced to recognize the incident for what it really 
was. The bystanders then carried the stricken woman out 
of the church to her home, where she continued to suffer 
from these attacks without interruption. Finally, her relatives, 
pursuing her with misguided human love, entrusted her cure 
to magicians who would utterly ruin her soul in their attempt 
to aid her body temporarily with their magic art. Accordingly, 
the young woman was taken to a river and submerged, 
while the magicians with endless formulas tried to expel the 
evil spirit. No sooner had they expelled one devil from her 



DIALOGUE ONE 43 

by their unholy craft, than God, who judges all, allowed 
a whole legion to enter into her. From then on it seemed 
that all the devils together were wildly agitating her body, 
shouting and screaming furiously. 

At this, her relatives came to their senses. They acknowl- 
edged their utter lack of faith and agreed to place the young 
woman under the care and protection of the saintly Fortu- 
natus. Once he had accepted responsibility for the woman's 
welfare, the holy bishop spent many days and nights in prayer, 
applying all the diligence and zeal necessary to overcome 
the legion of devils standing against him. After some days 
of fervent prayer, he was able to give the young woman back 
to her relatives, sound and healthy, without a trace of the 
former evil remaining. 

At another time this servant of God drove an unclean 
spirit out of a possessed man. Toward evening, a time when 
few men are about, this unclean spirit masquerading as a 
stranger walked up and down the streets of the city. 'Oh, 
what a holy bishop you have in Fortunatus/ he kept shouting. 
*See what he has done! He has thrown me, a stranger, out 
of my lodging, I look for a night's shelter but can find none 
in this city. 5 

A man sitting at the open hearth in his home with his 
wife and little son happened to hear the voice, and, curious 
to know what the bishop had done, invited the stranger into 
his house to join the family. While they were talking together, 
the evil spirit suddenly took hold of the little boy and cast 
him into the hearth where the flames quickly caused his 
death. Only too late did the wretched father realize that he 
had welcomed into his own home the evil spirit expelled by 
Bishop Fortunatus. 



44 SAINT GREGORY 

PETER 

How was it that the Devil dared to commit such a crime in 
this home, seeing that the father had practiced toward him 
the hospitality due to strangers? 

GREGORY 

My dear Peter, many things are good only in appearance 
but not in reality, because they do not flow from good motives. 
That is why Christ says in the Gospel, c lf thy eye is diseased, 
the whole of thy body will be in darkness. 317 For an act which 
results from an evil intention becomes bad in itself, though 
outwardly it may still appear good. I believe that the man 
who lost his son while showing hospitality found pleasure 
not in his work of mercy, but in the defamation of the bishop. 
The punishment which followed makes it clear that the 
previous act of hospitality was not without blame. For there 
are some who perform their good works in order to cast a 
shadow of reproach on their neighbors. They are motivated 
not by the good they do, but by the praise they receive at 
another's expense. I am inclined to think that the man who 
invited the evil spirit to accept hospitality was more intent 
on parading his own goodness than on doing a work of 
mercy. He wished to appear more righteous than the bishop, 
by receiving a person whom the bishop had rejected. 

17 Matt. 6.23. 



DIALOGUE ONE 45 

PETER 

What you say is true, for the outcome shows that the 
hospitality did not proceed from a pure motive. 

GREGORY 

At another time, a blind man who had been brought to 
Fortunatus begged for the help of his powerful intercession. 
The request was granted. After saying a prayer, the holy 
bishop made the sign of the cross on the poor man's eyes 
and immediately the blindness vanished and clear vision was 
restored. 

There is also the story of a soldier's mad horse. It took a 
number of men to hold it under control, and even then it 
would lash out right and left trying to bite whoever was 
within reach. Once the men had secured it as well as they 
could, they brought it to the man of God, who instantly 
made the sign of the cross over its head. With this, the horse 
became perfectly gentle. In fact, when the soldier noticed 
the sudden and complete change in the temper of his horse, 
he decided to give it to Bishop Fortunatus as a present. The 
latter, however, refused to accept it. When the soldier 
persisted in his offer, the bishop decided on a happy com- 
promise. By paying a fair price he could accept the horse 
without taking it as a reward for the miracle. An outright 
rejection, he saw, would only have caused the soldier great 
disappointment. So, following the dictates of charity, he 
bought the horse, though he had no need of it. 

There is another miracle I should mention. It was related 
to me about twelve days ago by a rather poor old man who 
had been directed to me. Since I always delight in conversing 



46 SAINT GREGORY 

with old men, I asked him where he was from. He informed 
me that he came from the city of Todi. Tell me, then, my 
dear man,' I said, 'did you know Bishop Fortunatus?' 

'I knew him well,' he replied. 

'Do you know of any miracles he performed?' I continued. 
'What kind of man was he? I would be very happy to know.' 

'He was far different from the men of today, 5 answered 
the old man. 'Whenever he turned to almighty God with 
a request, it was answered without delay. There is one miracle 
that comes to my mind now. 

'One day some Goths passing through Todi on their way 
to Ravenna carried off two small boys from an estate at the 
outskirts of the city. When the news of this reached Fortu- 
natus, he had the Goths summoned to his presence imme- 
diately. At first he spoke kindly to them, trying to soften the 
hardness of their hearts. Then he added, "I will pay you 
whatever price you demand, but bring back the boys you 
carried off. Do it as a personal favor to me." 

' "We are prepared to carry out any request of yours but 
this," answered the one who appeared to be their leader. 
"We will not give back the boys on any account." 

'With a mild threat in his voice Fortunatus replied, "This 
makes me very sad. You do not listen to your father. Do not 
disappoint me. It will bring you no blessings." 

'But the Goths remained obdurate and left without grant- 
ing the bishop's request. 

'The next day, on leaving the city, the leader of the Goths 
paid Fortunatus another visit. All the good bishop could do 
was repeat his previous request on behalf of the boys. The 
Goth would not agree to restore them. With deep sorrow in 
his voice the bishop then said, "I know this it will go hard with 
you for leaving me so sadly disappointed." 



DIALOGUE ONE 47 

'Making light of these words, the Goth returned to his 
quarters and ordered the boys to go ahead on horseback with 
his men. He himself followed shortly after. When he passed 
in front of the Church of St. Peter the Apostle, his horse 
slipped and fell. As a result, the Goth suffered a badly broken 
rib and had to be carried to his lodging. His first thought 
was to have the boys brought back. Then without delay he 
sent Fortunatus a short message saying, "Please, father, bid 
your deacon come to see me." 

'When the latter arrived at his bedside, the Goth had the 
boys brought into the room. Though previously he had utterly 
refused to leave them with the bishop, he now presented 
them to the deacon with the words, "Go and say to my lord 
the bishop: Because you have cursed me, I have been struck 
down. Here are the boys for whom you pleaded. Take them, 
and do not forget to say a prayer for me." 

e As soon as Fortunatus had the boys safely in his care, he 
gave the deacon some holy water and bade him hurry back 
to the Goth. The deacon went as he was told and, as he 
sprinkled the Goth with the holy water, a most remarkable 
thing happened. No sooner had the water touched his side 
than the fractured rib became one solid piece again, com- 
pletely healed. The Goth rose from his bed that same hour 
and, mounting his horse, continued his journey as if he had 
suffered no physical harm of any kind. 

c lt turned out that the Goth, who in spite of the ransom 
offered had refused to give up the boys in obedience to the 
holy bishop, was compelled by physical suffering to give them 
back without hope of recompense.' 

When the old man had finished this story he was eager 
to pass on to another. But some people whom I was instruct- 
ing had arrived, and besides it was growing late. So at the 



48 SAINT GREGORY 

time I could not very well continue listening to his accounts, 
much as I always enjoy doing so. 

The next day the old man told me about another miracle 
of Fortunatus, even more remarkable than the previous one. 
'In the same city of Todi, 5 he began, 'there was a man of 
exemplary life named Marcellus, who lived there with his 
two sisters. On Holy Saturday evening he took sick and died. 
Since it was necessary to carry his remains a great distance, 
he could not be buried the same day. The consequent delay 
in the funeral services gave the two sisters time to hurry to 
their revered bishop, Fortunatus, and pour out their hearts 
in grief. "We know that you follow in the footsteps of the 
holy Apostles," they said, "and that you cleanse lepers and 
give sight to the blind. Come with us and bring our brother 
back to life." 

'This was very sad news for Bishop Fortunatus and he, too, 
could not restrain his tears. "Go home again, 33 he told them, 
"and do not insist on this request of yours, for your brother's 
death occured by God's decree, which no man can oppose." 
With this answer the two sisters departed, leaving the bishop 
alone to mourn his friend's death. 

'Before dawn of Easter Sunday he summoned his two 
deacons and went with them to the home of the deceased, 
proceeding directly to the place where the corpse was laid 
out. There he knelt down and after praying for some time 
rose and sat down near the body. Then in a subdued voice 
he called, "Brother Marcellus." At the sound of this low 
voice so near him, the dead man was roused as though 
awakened from a gentle slumber. Opening his eyes and look- 
ing at the bishop, he said, "What have you done? What have 
you done?" The bishop in turn asked, "What have I done?" 
To this Marcellus answered: "Yesterday two people came to 



DIALOGUE ONE 49 

release me from the body and lead me to the abode of the 
blessed. Today a messenger is sent to them with the command, 
"Take him back, because Bishop Fortunatus is visiting at his 
home." Marcellus quickly regained his strength and lived 
for a long time after this episode/ 

We must not suppose, however, that he lost the place that 
had been given him in heaven. There is no doubt that through 
the prayers of his patron he was able to live even more virtu- 
ously after this experience with death than before it, for he 
had always made an earnest effort to please almighty God. 

But why relate all these miracles from the lifetime of Bishop 
Fortunatus, when even at present numerous wonders are 
worked at the tomb where he lies buried? Here, whenever 
people come to venerate his earthly remains with a lively 
faith, Fortunatus continues to drive out devils from possessed 
persons and to heal the sick, just as he had done during his 
lifetime. 

Now I wish to return again in my narrative to the province 
of Valeria, because it is the scene of some remarkable deeds 
which were told me by the Fortunatus whom I mentioned 
much earlier in this book. 18 He still comes to see me frequently 
and edifies me with stories of the past. 

(11) In this province there was a man named Martyrius, 
a devout servant of almighty God. As a witness to his sanctity 
we have the following miracle. 

One day, when some of the monks were baking bread, 
they forgot to stamp the sign of the cross on the loaves. It 
was the custom there to stamp the unbaked loaves with a 
wooden form which divided them into four equal parts. 
Overhearing the conversation of his fellow monks, Martyrius 

18 See above, p. 16. 



50 SAINT GREGORY 

knew that the loaves had not been marked. The loaves were 
already in the hot embers and covered with ashes. Turning 
to his companions, he asked, 'Why did you not stamp this 
bread?' At the same time he made the sign of the cross over 
the embers. As he did so, a loud noise like the breaking of a 
jar, came from inside the hot ashes where the bread was 
baking. When the loaves were removed from the fire it was 
found that they had been stamped with a cross, not through 
contact with a physical object, but by the power of faith. 

(12) There is in that region a valley called Interorina, or 
Interocrina, its popular name. Here the saintly Severus exer- 
cised his priestly care over the Church of Blessed Mary Ever 
Virgin, Mother of God. One day he received an urgent sum- 
mons from the owner of an estate who was lying on his 
deathbed. The messengers begged Severus come quickly and 
intercede for the poor man's soul, so that he might repent 
and die absolved from his sins. Severus, busy at the time 
watering his vineyard, told the messengers to go back to the 
sick man, adding that he himself would follow in a very short 
time. He saw that the work in the vineyard would require 
but a few moments, so he stayed long enough to finish it 
before setting out to visit the sick man. 

On his way there, he was met by the same messengers 
returning to him. 'Why did you delay, Father?' they asked. 
'There is no need to trouble yourself any longer, for our 
friend is now dead.' 

At this news, Severus trembled with fear and began loudly 
to accuse himself of being responsible for the man's death. 
With tears in his eyes he arrived at the scene, fell to his 
knees in front of the bed and wept bitterly. While he was 
thus lamenting and afflicting himself for his sinful neglect, 
the dead man suddenly came back to life. At sight of this 



DIALOGUE ONE 5 1 

the bystanders burst out in shouts of amazement and wept 
now for joy. On being asked where he had been and how 
he had come back, he said: The guides who led me away 
were dreadful creatures. From their mouths and nostrils they 
breathed a most unbearable fire. While they were leading 
me through a dark region, suddenly, like a beautiful vision, 
a young man with wings came to meet us and said to my 
guides, "Lead him back again, because the priest Severus 
is weeping and through his tears has obtained pardon from 
God for the soul of this man." ? 

Hearing this, Severus quickly got to his feet and offered 
the powers of his intercession to help the man do penance 
for his sins. And so, after spending seven days in works of 
penance, the man died a happy death on the eighth day. 

Consider, therefore, how much the Lord loved His disciple 
Severus only for a brief moment would he allow sadness 
to overwhelm him. 

PETER 

These are truly remarkable deeds! Up to the present they 
were entirely unknown to me. How is it that we cannot 
find men of this type today? 

GREGORY 

I believe there still are many such men in the world, 
Peter. One cannot conclude that there are no great saints 
just because no great miracles are worked. The true estimate 
of life, after all, lies in acts of virtue, not in the display of 
miracles. There are many, Peter, who without performing 
miracles, are not at all inferior to those who perform them. 



52 SAINT GREGORY 



PETER 

How, then, I ask you, can I tell that there are some saints 
who without working miracles are equal to those saints 
who do? 

GREGORY 

Surely you know that in the apostolic college Paul was 
brother to Peter, the prince o the Apostles. 

PETER 

I do, indeed, and there is no doubt that, although he 
was the least of the Apostles, he labored more than all the rest. 

GREGORY 

You recall, too, how Peter walked on the water, whereas 
Paul was shipwrecked on the high seas. 19 In the very same 
element, then, where Paul was unable to proceed on board 
board ship, Peter could go on foot. Though these two Apostles 
did not share equally in the power of performing miracles, 
it is clear that they have an equal share in the rewards of 
heaven. 

PETER 

I am much pleased with what you say, for I realize now 
that in these matters one must consider a man's way of life, 
not his miracles. But, since miracles are a testimony to holiness 
of life, I beg you not to end your narrative now, but to 
continue nourishing my spirit with these examples of sanctity. 

19 Cf. Matt. 14.29; Acts 27.14-44. 



DIALOGUE ONE 53 

GREGORY 

I should be delighted to tell you the miracles of the saintly 
Benedict, thereby bringing honor and glory to our Redeemer, 
but the day is nearly spent. So, if we leave these miracles 
for another time, we shall be free to speak of them at greater 
length. 



BOOK TWO 



Life and Miracles of St. Benedict 
Founder and Abbot of the Mon- 
astery Which Is Known as the 
Citadel of Campania 1 

9 HERE WAS A MAN of saintly life; blessed Benedict was 
1 his name, and he was blessed also with God's grace. 
I Even in boyhood he showed mature understanding, 
for he kept his heart detached from every pleasure with a 
strength of character far beyond his years. While still living 
in the world, free to enjoy its earthly advantages, he saw how 
barren it was with its attractions and turned from it without 
regret. 

He was born in the district of Norcia 2 of distinguished 
parents, who sent him to Rome for a liberal education. But 
when he saw many of his fellow students falling headlong 
into vice, he stepped back from the threshold of the world 
in which he had just set foot. For he was afraid that if he 

1 The Abbey of Monte Cassino. For the origin of this earlier name, cf. 
n. 28. 

2 A little town about seventy miles northeast of Rome. The saint was 
born around 480. 

55 



56 SAINT GREGORY 

acquired any of its learning he, too, would later plunge, 
body and soul, into the dread abyss. In his desire to please 
God alone, he turned his back on further studies, gave up 
home and inheritance and resolved to embrace the religious 
life. He took this step, well aware of his ignorance, yet wise, 
uneducated though he was. 

I was unable to learn about all his miraculous deeds. But 
the few that I am going to relate I know from the lips of 
four of his own disciples: Constantine, the holy man who 
succeeded him as abbot; Valentinian, for many years superior 
of the monastery at the Lateran; 3 Simplicius, Benedict's 
second successor; and Honoratus, who is still abbot of the 
monastery where the man of God first lived. 4 

(1) When Benedict abandoned his studies to go into 
solitude, he was accompanied only by his nurse, who loved 
him dearly. As they were passing through Affile, a number 
of devout men invited them to stay there and provided them 
with lodging near the Church of St. Peter. 5 One day, after 
asking her, neighbors to lend her a tray for cleaning wheat, 
the nurse happened to leave it on the edge of the table and 
when she came back found it had slipped off and broken 
in two. The poor woman burst into tears; she had only 
borrowed this tray and now it was ruined. Benedict, who 
had always been a devout and thoughtful boy, felt sorry for 
his nurse when he saw her weeping. Quietly picking up 
both the pieces, he knelt down by himself and prayed earnestly 
to God, even to the point of tears. No sooner had he finished 
his prayer than he noticed that the two pieces were joined 
together again, without even a mark to show where the tray 

3 Next to the Lateran Basilica in Rome. 

4 Namely, Subiaco. 

5 Literally, 'in the Church of St. Peter'; most likely, in a hospice 
attached to the church. 



DIALOGUE TWO 57 

had been broken. Hurrying back at once, he cheerfully reas- 
sured his nurse and handed her the tray in perfect condition. 

News of the miracle spread to all the country around 
Affile and stirred up so much admiration among the people 
that they hung the tray at the entrance of their church. Ever 
since then it has been a reminder to all of the great holiness 
Benedict had acquired at the very outset of his monastic 
life. The tray remained there many years for everyone to see, 
and it is still hanging over the doorway of the church in 
these days of Lombard rule. 6 Benedict, however, preferred 
to suffer ill-treatment from the world rather than enjoy its 
praises. He wanted to spend himself laboring for God, not 
to be honored by the applause of men. So he stole away 
secretly from his nurse and fled to a lonely wilderness about 
thirty-five miles from Rome called Subiaco. A stream of cold, 
clear water running through the region broadens out at this 
point to form a lake, then flows off and continues on its 
course. 7 On his way there Benedict met a monk named 
Romanus, who asked him where he was going. After discover- 
ing the young man's purpose, Romanus kept it secret and 
even helped him carry it out by clothing him with the monas- 
tic habit and supplying his needs as well as he could. 

At Subiaco, Benedict made his home in a narrow cave 
and for three years remained concealed there, unknown to 
anyone except the monk Romanus, who lived in a monastery 
close by under the rule of Abbot Deodatus. With fatherly 

6 The Lombards, a Germanic people, left their homes along the upper 
Danube and invaded Italy in 568, establishing a kingdom there which 
lasted until 774. 

7 Subiaco lies along the Anio River about five miles north of Affile. 
The lake St. Gregory speaks of gave the site its Latin name of Sublet- 
cum. It was formed by a dam which Emperor Claudius had built 
across the river, and lasted until 1305 when the dam was destroyed 
by floods. 



58 SAINT GREGORY 

concern this monk regularly set aside as much bread as he 
could from his own portion; then from time to time, unnoticed 
by his abbot, he left the monastery long enough to take the 
bread to Benedict. There was no path leading from the 
monastery down to his cave because of a cliff that rose di- 
rectly over it. To reach him Romanus had to tie the bread 
to the end of a long rope and lower it over the cliff. A little 
bell attached to the rope let Benedict know when the bread 
was- there, and he would come out to get it. The ancient 
Enemy of mankind grew envious of the kindness shown by 
the older monk in supplying Benedict with food, and one 
day, as the bread was being lowered, he threw a stone at 
the bell and broke it. In spite of this, Romanus kept on with 
his faithful service. 

At length the time came when almighty God wished to 
grant him rest from his toil and reveal Benedict's virtuous 
life to others. Like a shining lamp his example was to be 
set on a lampstand to give light to everyone in God's house. 8 
The Lord therefore appeared in a vision to a priest some 
distance away, who had just prepared his Easter dinner. 
'How can you prepare these delicacies for yourself,' He asked, 
'while my servant is out there in the wilds suffering from 
hunger?' 

Rising at once, the priest wrapped up the food and set 
out to find the man of God that very day. He searched for 
him along the rough mountainsides, in the valleys, and 
through the caverns, until he found him hidden in the cave. 
They said a prayer of thanksgiving together and then sat 
down to talk about the spiritual life. After a while the priest 
suggested that they take their meal. Today is the great feast 
of Easter,' he added. 



8 Cf. Matt. 5.15. 



DIALOGUE TWO 59 

'It must be a great feast to have brought me this kind 
visit/ the man of God replied, not realizing after Ms long 
separation from men that it was Easter Sunday. 

'Today is really Easter/ the priest insisted, e the fea3t of our 
Lord's Resurrection. On such a solemn occasion you should 
not be fasting. Besides, I was sent here by almighty God so 
that both of us could share in His gifts. 3 

After that they said grace and began their meal. When it 
was over they conversed some more and then the priest went 
back to his church. 9 

At about the same time some shepherds also discovered 
Benedict's hiding place. When they first looked through the 
thickets and caught sight of him clothed in rough skins, they 
mistook him for some wild animal. Soon, however, they 
recognized in him a servant of God, and many of them gave 
up their sinful ways for a life of holiness. As a result, his 
name became known to all the people in that locality and 
great numbers visited his cave, supplying him with the food 
he needed and receiving from his lips in return spiritual food 
for their souls. 

(2) One day, while the saint was alone, the Tempter 
came in the form of a little blackbird, which began to flutter 
in front of his face. It kept so close that he could easily have 
caught it in his hand. Instead, he made the sign of the cross 
and the bird flew away. The moment it left, he was seized 
with an unusually violent temptation. The evil spirit recalled 
to his mind a woman he had once seen, and before he 
realized it his emotions were carrying him away. Almost over- 
come in the struggle, he was on the point of abandoning the 
lonely wilderness, when suddenly with the help of God's grace 
he came to himself. 



9 Cf. Acts 9.10-19. 



60 SAINT GREGORY 

He then noticed a thick patch of nettles and briers next 
to him. Throwing his garment aside he flung himself into the 
sharp thorns and stinging nettles. There he rolled and tossed 
until his whole body was in pain and covered with blood. 
Yet, once he had conquered pleasure through suffering, his 
torn and bleeding skin served to drain the poison of tempta- 
tion from his body. Before long, the pain that was burning 
his whole body had put out the fires of evil in his heart. It 
was by exchanging these two fires that he gained the victory 
over sin. So complete was his triumph that from then on, 
as he later told his disciples, he never experienced another 
temptation of this kind. 

Soon after, many forsook the world to place themselves 
under his guidance, for now that he was free from these 
temptations he was ready to instruct others in the practice 
of virtue. That is why Moses commanded the Levites to 
begin their service when they were twenty-five years old or 
more and to become guardians of the sacred vessels only at 
the age of fifty. 10 

PETER 

The meaning of the passage you quote is becoming a little 
clearer to me now. Still, I wish you would explain it more 
fully. 

GREGORY 

It is a well-known fact, Peter, that temptations of the flesh 
are violent during youth, whereas after the age of fifty con- 
cupiscence dies down. Now, the sacred vessels are the souls 
of the faithful. God's chosen servants must therefore obey 
and serve and tire themselves out with strenuous work as long 

10 Cf. Num. 8.24-26. 



DIALOGUE TWO 61 

as they are still subject to temptations. Only when full matu- 
rity has left them undisturbed by evil thoughts are they put 
in charge of the sacred vessels, for then they become teachers 
of souls. 

PETER 

I like the way you interpreted that passage. Now that you 
have explained what it means, I hope you will continue with 
your account of the holy man's life. 

GREGORY 

(3) With the passing of this temptation, Benedict's soul, 
like a field cleared of briers, soon yielded a rich harvest of 
virtues. As word spread of his saintly life, the renown of his 
name increased. One day the entire community from a nearby 
monastery 11 came to see him. Their abbot had recently died, 
and they wanted the man of God to be their new superior. 
For some time he tried to discourage them by refusing their 
request, warning them that his way of life would never harmo- 
nize with theirs. But they kept insisting, until in the end he 
gave his consent. 

At the monastery he watched carefully over the religious 
spirit of his monks and would not tolerate any of their previous 
disobedience. No one was allowed to turn from the straight 
path of monastic discipline either to the right or to the left. 
Their waywardness, however, clashed with the standards he 
upheld, and in their resentment they started to reproach them- 
selves for choosing him as abbot. It only made them the 
more sullen to find him curbing every fault and evil habit. 

11 Usually identified as Vicovaro, about twenty miles farther down the 
Anio. 



62 SAINT GREGORY 

They could not see why they should have to force their 
settled minds into new ways of thinking. 

At length, proving once again that the very life of the 
just is a burden to the wicked/ 2 they tried to find a means of 
doing away with him and decided to poison his wine. A 
glass pitcher containing this poisoned drink was presented 
to the man of God during his meal for the customary blessing. 
As he made the sign of the cross over it with his hand, the 
pitcher was shattered, even though it was well beyond his 
reach at the time. It broke at his blessing as if he had struck 
it with stone. 

Then he realized it had contained a deadly drink which 
could not bear the sign of life. Still calm and undisturbed, 
he rose at once and, after gathering the community together, 
addressed them. 'May almighty God have mercy on you,' he 
said. c Why did you conspire to do this? Did I not tell you 
at the outset that my way of life would never harmonize 
with yours? Go and find yourselves an abbot to your liking. 
It is impossible for me to stay here any longer. 3 Then he 
went back to the wilderness he loved, to live alone with 
himself in the presence of his heavenly Father. 

PETER 

I am not quite sure I understand what you mean by saying 
c to live with himself.' 

GREGORY 

These monks had an outlook on religious life entirely unlike 
his own and were all conspiring against him. Now, if he had 
tried to force them to remain under his rule, he might have 

12 CL Wisd. 2.12-20. 



DIALOGUE TWO 63 

forfeited his own fervor and peace of soul and even turned 
his eyes from the light of contemplation. Their persistent 
daily faults would have left him almost too weary to look 
to his own needs, and he would perhaps have forsaken him- 
self without finding them. For, whenever anxieties carry us 
out of ourselves unduly, we are no longer with ourselves 
even though we still remain what we are. We are too dis- 
tracted with other matters to give any attention whatever 
to ourselves. 

Surely we cannot describe as c with himself the young man 
who traveled to a distant country where he wasted his inher- 
itance and then, after hiring himself out to one of its citizens 
to feed swine, had to watch them eat their fill of pods while he 
went hungry. Do we not read in Scripture that, as he was 
considering all he had lost, c he came to himself and said, 
"how many hired servants there are in my father's house 
who have more bread than they can eat" '? 13 If he was 
already 'with himself,' how could he have come 'to himself? 

Blessed Benedict, on the contrary, can be said to have 
lived 'with himself because at all times he kept such close 
watch over his life and actions. By searching continually into 
his own soul he always beheld himself in the presence of his 
Creator. And this kept his mind from straying off to the 
world outside. 

PETER 

But what of Peter the Apostle when he was led out of 
prison by an angel? According to the Scriptures, he, too, 
'came to himself.' 'Now I can tell for certain, he said, that 
the Lord has sent his angel, to deliver me out of Herod's 
hands, and from all that the people of the Jews hoped to 



13 Luke 15.17. 



64 SAINT GREGORY 

GREGORY 

There are two ways in which we can be carried out of 
ourselves. Peter. Either we fall below ourselves through sins 
of thought or we are lifted above ourselves by the grace of 
contemplation. The young man who fed the swine sank 
below himself as a result of his shiftless ways and his unclean 
life. The Apostle Peter was also out of himself when the 
angel set him free and raised him to a state of ecstasy, but 
he was above himself. In coming to themselves again, the 
former had to break with his sinful past before he could 
find his true and better self, whereas the latter merely returned 
from the heights of contemplation to his ordinary state of 
mind. 

Now, the saintly Benedict really lived 'with himself out in 
that lonely wilderness by always keeping his thoughts recol- 
lected. Yet he must have left his own self far below each time 
he was drawn heavenward in fervent contemplation. 

PETER 

I am very grateful to you for that explanation. Do you think 
it was right, though, for him to forsake this community, 
once he had taken it under his care? 

GREGORY 

In my opinion, Peter, a superior ought to bear patiently 
with a community of evil men as long as it has some devout 
members who can benefit from his presence. When none 
of the members is devout enough to give any promise of 
good results, his efforts to help such a community will prove 

14 Acts 12.11. 



DIALOGUE TWO 65 

to be a serious mistake, especially if there are opportunities 
nearby to work more fruitfully for God. Was there anyone 
the holy man could have hoped to protect by staying where 
he was, after he saw that they were all united against him? 

In this matter we cannot afford to overlook the attitude 
of the saints. When they find their work producing no results 
in one place, they move on to another where it can do some 
good. This explains the action of the blessed Apostle Paul. 
In order to escape from Damascus, where he was being per- 
secuted, he secured a basket and a rope and had himself 
secretely lowered over the wall. 15 Yet this outstanding 
preacher of the Gospel longed to depart and be with Christ, 
since for him life meant Christ, and death was a prize to be 
won. 16 Besides being eager for the trials of persecution him- 
self, he even inspired others to endure them. 17 Can we say 
that Paul feared death, when he expressely declared that he 
longed to die for the love of Christ? Surely not. But, when 
he saw how little he was accomplishing at Damascus in spite 
of all his toil, he saved himself for more fruitful labors 
elsewhere. God's fearless warrior refused to be held back 
inside the walls and sought the open field of battle. 

And if you do not mind continuing to listen, Peter, you will 
soon discover that after blessed Benedict left that obstinate 
community he restored to life many another soul that was 
spiritually dead. 

PETER 

I am sure your conclusion is correct, after the simple proof 
you gave and that striking example from sacred Scripture. 

15 Cf. Acts 9.25; 2 Cor. 11.32,33. 

16 Cf. Phil. 1.21,23. 

17 Cf. Heb. 10.32-36. 



66 SAINT GREGORY 

Would you be good enough to return now to the story of 
this great abbot's life? 

GREGORY 

As Benedict's influence spread over the surrounding coun- 
tryside because of his signs and wonders, a great number of 
men gathered round him to devote themselves to God's 
service. Christ blessed his work and before long he had estab- 
lished twelve monasteries there, with an abbot and twelve 
monks in each of them. There were a few other monks whom 
he kept with him, since he felt that they still needed his 
personal guidance. 

It was about this time that pious noblemen from Rome 
first came to visit the saint and left their sons with him to 
be schooled in the service of God. Thus, Euthicius 18 brought 
his son Maurus; and Senator Tertullus, Placid both very 
promising boys. Maurus, in fact, who was a little older, had 
already acquired solid virtue and was soon very helpful to 
his saintly master. But Placid was still only a child. 

(4) In one of the monasteries Benedict had founded in 
that locality, there was a monk who would never remain with 
the rest of the community for silent prayer. Instead, he left 
the chapel as soon as they knelt down to pray, and passed 
the time aimlessly at whatever happened to interest him. 
His abbot corrected him repeatedly and at length sent him to 
the man of God. This time the monk received a stern rebuke 
for his folly and after his return took the correction to heart 
for a day or two, only to fall back the third day into his old 
habit of wandering off during the time of prayer. On learning 
of this from the abbot, the man of God sent word that he was 

18 Usually written 'Equitius/ but 'Euthicius' is the critical reading. 



DIALOGUE TWO 67 

coming over himself to see that the monk mended his ways. 

Upon his arrival at the monastery, Benedict joined the 
community in the chapel at the regular hour. After they 
had finished chanting the psalms and had begun their silent 
prayer, he noticed that the restless monk was drawn outside 
by a little black boy who was pulling at the edge of his habit. 

'Do you see who is leading that monk out of the chapel?' 
he whispered to Abbot Pompeianus and Maurus. 

'No/ they replied. 

'Let us pray, then,' he said, 'that you may see what is 
happening to him.' 

They prayed for two days, and after that Maurus also 
saw what was taking place, but Abbot Pompeianus still could 
not. The next day, when prayers were over, Benedict found 
the offender loitering outside and struck him with his staff 
for being so obstinate of heart. From then on the monk 
remained quietly at prayer like the rest, without being both- 
ered again by the tempter. It was as if that ancient Enemy 
had been struck by the blow himself and was afraid to 
domineer over the monk's thoughts any longer. 

(5) Three of the monasteries the saint had built close by 
stood on the bare rocky heights. It was a real hardship for 
these monks always to go down to the lake to get water for 
their daily needs. Besides, the slope was steep and they found 
the descent very dangerous. The members of the three com- 
munities therefore came in a body to see the servant of God. 
After explaining how difficult it was for them to climb down 
the mountainside every day for their water supply, they 
assured him that the only solution was to have the monasteries 
moved somewhere else. 

Benedict answered them with fatherly words of encourage- 
ment and sent them back. That same night, in company with 



68 SAINT GREGORY 

the little boy Placid, he climbed to the rocky heights and 
prayed there for a long time. On finishing his prayer, he 
placed three stones together to indicate the spot where he 
had knelt and then went back to his monastery, unnoticed by 
anyone. 

The following day, when the monks came again with their 
request, he told them to go to the summit of the mountain. 
'You will find three stones there, 3 he said, 'one on top of the 
other. If you dig down a little, you will see that almighty 
God has the power to bring forth water even from that 
rocky summit and in His goodness relieve you of the hardship 
of such a long climb. 5 

Going back to the place he had described, they noticed 
that the surface was already moist. As soon as they had dug 
the ground away, water filled the hollow and welled up in 
such abundance that today a full stream is still flowing from 
the top of the mountain into the ravine below. 

( 6 ) At another time a simple, sincere Goth came to Subiaco 
to become a monk, and blessed Benedict was very happy to 
admit him. One day he had him take a brush hook and 
clear away the briers from a place at the edge of the lake 
where a garden was to be planted. While the Goth was hard 
at work cutting down the thick brush, the iron blade slipped 
off the handle and flew into a very deep part of the lake, 
where there was no hope of recovering it. 

At this the poor man ran trembling to Maurus and, after 
describing the accident, told him how sorry he was for his 
carelessness. Maurus in turn informed the servant of God, 
who on hearing what had happened went down to the lake, 
took the handle from the Goth and thrust it in the water. 
Immediately the iron blade rose from the bottom of the lake 
and slipped back onto the handle. Then he handed the tool 



DIALOGUE TWO 69 

back to the Goth and told him, 'Continue with your work 
now. There is no need to be upset. 3 

(7) Once while blessed Benedict was in his room, one of 
his monks, the boy Placid, went down to the lake to draw 
water. In letting the bucket fill too rapidly, he lost his balance 
and was pulled into the lake, where the current quickly 
seized him and carried him about a stone's throw from the 
shore. Though inside the monastery at the time., the man of 
God was instantly aware of what had happened and called 
out to Maurus: 'Hurry, Brother Maurus! The boy who just 
went down for water has fallen into the lake, and the current 
is carrying him away. 5 

What followed was remarkable indeed, and unheard of 
since the time of Peter the Apostle! 19 Maurus asked for the 
blessing and on receiving it hurried out to fulfill his abbot's 
command. He kept on running even over the water till he 
reached the place where Placid was drifting along helplessly. 
Pulling him up by the hair, Maurus rushed back to shore, 
still under the impression that he was on dry land. It was 
only when he set foot on the ground that he came to himself 
and looking back realized that he had been running on the 
surface of the water. Overcome with fear and amazement at 
a deed he would never have thought possible, he returned 
to his abbot and told him what had taken place. 

The holy man would not take any personal credit for the 
deed, but attributed it to the obedience of his disciple. Maurus,, 
on the contrary, claimed that it was due entirely to his abbot's 
command. He could not have been responsible for the miracle 
himself, he said, since he had not even known he was perform- 
ing it. While they were carrying on this friendly contest of 
humility, the question was settled by the boy who had been 

19 Cf. Matt. 14.28,29. 



70 SAINT GREGORY 

rescued. 'When I was being drawn out of the water, 3 he 
told them, 'I saw the abbot's cloak over my head; he is the 
one I thought was bringing me to shore.' 

PETER 

What marvelous deeds these are! They are sure to prove 
inspiring to all who hear of them. Indeed, the more you tell 
me about this great man, the more eager I am to keep on 
listening. 

GREGORY 

(8) By this time the people of that whole region for miles 
around had grown fervent in their love for Christ, and many 
of them had forsaken the world in order to bring their hearts 
under the light yoke of the Saviour. Now, in a neighboring 
church there was a priest named Florentius, the grandfather 
of our subdeacon Florentius. Urged on by the bitter Enemy 
of mankind, this priest set out to undermine the saint's work. 
And envious as the wicked always are of the holiness in 
others which they are not striving to acquire themselves, he 
denounced Benedict's way of life and kept everyone he could 
from visiting him. 

The progress of the saint's work, however, could not be 
stopped. His reputation for holiness kept on growing, and 
with it the number of vocations to a more perfect state of 
life. This infuriated Florentius all the more. He still longed 
to enjoy the praise the saint was receiving, yet he was unwill- 
ing to lead a praiseworthy life himself. At length, his soul 
became so blind with jealousy that he decided to poison a loaf 
of bread and send it to the servant of God as though it was 
a sign of Christian fellowship. 



DIALOGUE TWO 71 

Though aware at once of the deadly poison it contained, 
Benedict thanked him for the gift. 

At mealtime a raven used to come out of the nearby woods 
to receive food from the saint's hands. On this occasion he 
set the poisoned loaf in front of it and said, c ln the name of 
our Lord Jesus Christ, take this bread and carry it to a place 
where no one will be able to find it.' The raven started to 
caw and circled round the loaf of bread with open beak and 
flapping wings as if to indicate that it was willing to obey, 
but found it impossible to do so. Several times the saint 
repeated the command. 'Take the bread, 3 he said, 'and do 
not be afraid! Take it away from here and leave it where 
no one will find it.' After hesitating for a long while, the 
raven finally took the loaf in its beak and flew away. About 
three hours later, when it had disposed of the bread, it 
returned and received its usual meal from the hands of the 
man of God. 

The saintly abbot now realized how deep the resentment 
of his enemy was, and he felt grieved not so much for his 
own sake as for the priest's. But Florentius, after his failure 
to do away with the master, determined instead to destroy 
the souls of the disciples and for this purpose sent seven 
depraved women into the garden of Benedict's monastery. 
There they joined hands and danced together for some time 
within sight of his followers, in an attempt to lead them into 
sin. 

When the saint noticed this from his window, he began 
to fear that some of his younger monks might go astray. 
Convinced that the priest's hatred for him was the real cause 
of this attack, he let envy have its way and, taking only a 
few monks with him, set out to find a new home. Before he 
left, he reorganized all the monasteries he had founded, ap- 



72 SAINT GREGORY 

pointing priors to assist in governing them, and adding some 
new members to the communities. 

Hardly had the man of God made his humble escape from 
all this bitterness when almighty God struck the priest down 
with terrible vengeance. As he was standing on the balcony 
of his house congratulating himself on Benedict's departure, 
the structure suddenly collapsed, crushing him to death, 
though the rest of the building remained undamaged. This 
accident occured before the saint was even ten miles away. 
His disciple Maurus immediately decided to send a messenger 
with the news and ask him to return, now that the priest 
who had caused him so much trouble was dead. Benedict 
was overcome with sorrow and regret on hearing this, for 
not only had his enemy been killed,, but one of his own 
disciples had rejoiced over his death. And for showing plea- 
sure in sending such a message he gave Maurus a penance 
to perform. 

PETER 

This whole account is really amazing. The water streaming 
from the rock reminds me of Moses, 20 and the iron blade 
that rose from the bottom of the lake, of Eliseus. 21 The 
walking on the water recalls St. Peter, 22 the obedience of the 
raven, Elias, 23 and the grief at the death of an enemy, 
David. 24 This man must have been filled with the spirit of, 
all the just. 

20 Cf. Exod. 17.1-7; Num. 20,1-11. 

21 Cf. 4 Kings 6.4-7. 

22 Cf. Matt. 14,28,29. 

23 Cf. 3 Kings 17.6. 

24 Cf. 2 Kings 1.11,12; 18.33. 



DIALOGUE TWO 73 

GREGORY 

Actually, Peter, blessed Benedict possessed the Spirit of 
only one Person, the Saviour who fills the hearts of all the 
faithful by granting them the fruits of His Redemption. For 
St. John says of Him, 'There is one who enlightens every 
soul born into the world; he was the true light. 5 And again, 
we have all received something out of his abundance.' 25 
Holy men never were able to hand on to others the mira- 
culous powers which they received from God. Our Saviour 
was the only one to give His followers the power to work 
signs and wonders, just as He alone could assure His enemies 
that He would give them the sign of the prophet Jonas. 26 
Seeing this sign fulfilled in His death, the proud looked on 
with scorn. The humble, who saw its complete fulfillment in 
His rising from the dead, turned to Him with reverence and 
love. In this mystery, then, the proud beheld Him dying 
in disgrace, whereas the humble witnessed His triumph over 
death. 

PETER 

Now that you have finished explaining this, please tell me 
where the holy man settled after his departure. Do you know 
whether he performed any more miracles? 

GREGORY 

Although he moved to a different place, Peter, his enemy 
remained the same. In fact, the assaults he had to endure 

25 John 1.9,16. 

26 Cf. Matt. 12.39,40. 



74 SAINT GREGORY 

after this were all the more violent, because the very Master 
of evil was fighting against him in open battle. 

The fortified town of Cassino lies at the foot of a towering 
mountain that shelters it within its slope and stretches upward 
over a distance of nearly three miles. 27 On its summit stood 
a very old temple, in which the ignorant country people still 
worshiped Apollo as their pagan ancestors had done, and 
went on offering superstitious and idolatrous sacrifices in 
groves dedicated to various demons. 

When the man of God arrived at this spot, he destroyed 
the idol, overturned the altar and cut down the trees in^the 
sacred groves. 28 Then he turned the temple of Apollo into 
a chapel dedicated to St. Martin, 29 and where Apollo's altar 
had stood, he built a chapel in honor of St. John the Baptist. 
Gradually, the people of the countryside were won over to the 
true faith by his zealous preaching. 

Such losses the ancient Enemy could not bear in silence. 
This time he did not appear to the saint in a dream or under 
a disguise, but met him face to face and objected fiercely to 
the outrages he had to endure. His shouts were so loud that 
the brethren heard him, too, although they were unable to 
see him. According to the saint's own description, the Devil 

27 St. Gregory is referring to the winding path that led up the mountain. 
The altitude of Monte Cassino is 1,500 feet. 

28 Monte Cassino is about seventy-five miles southeast of Rome. St. 
Benedict arrived there in 529. In addition to the pagan shrines men- 
tioned by St. Gregory, there was also a very ancient fortress on the 
summit for the defense of the townspeople below and the surrounding 
plains. The Abbey of Monte Cassino was built entirely within the 
walls of the fortress and was for that reason known at first as the Cit- 
adel of Campania, as we learn from the full title of this book. Cf. L. 
Tosti, St. Benedict, an Historical Discourse on His Life, trans. W. 
Woods (London 1896) 83-86; I. Schuster, Storia di san Benedetto e del 
suoi tempi (Milan 1946) 127, 129, 150. 

29 St. Martin of Tours. 



DIALOGUE TWO 75 

had an appearance utterly revolting to human eyes. He was 
enveloped in fire and, when he raged against the man of 
God, flames darted from his eyes and mouth. Everyone could 
hear what he was saying. First he called Benedict by name. 
Then, finding that the saint would not answer, he broke out 
in abusive language. 'Benedict, Benedict, blessed Benedict!' 
he would begin, and then add, 'You cursed Benedict ! Cursed, 
not blessed! What do you want with me? Why are you 
tormenting me like this?' 

From now on, Peter, as you can well imagine, the Devil 
fought against the man of God with renewed violence. But, 
contrary to his plans, all these attacks only supplied the saint 
with further opportunities for victory. 

(9) One day while the monks were constructing a section 
of the abbey, they noticed a rock lying close at hand and 
decided to use it in the building. When two or three did not 
succeed in lifting it, others joined in to help. Yet it remained 
fixed in its place as though it was rooted to the ground. Then 
they were sure that the Devil himself was sitting on this stone 
and preventing them from moving it in spite of all their 
efforts. 

Faced with this difficulty, they asked Abbot Benedict to 
come and use his prayers to drive away the Devil who was 
holding down the rock. The saint began to pray as soon as 
he got there, and after he had finished and made the sign 
of the cross, the monks picked up the rock with such ease 
that it seemed to have lost all its previous weight. 

(10) The abbot then directed them to spade up the earth 
where the stone had been. When they had dug a little way 
into the ground they came upon a bronze idol, which they 
threw into the kitchen for the time being. Suddenly the 



76 SAINT GREGORY 

kitchen appeared to be on fire and everyone felt that the 
entire building was going up in flames. The noise and com- 
motion they made in their attempt to put out the blaze by 
pouring on buckets of water brought Benedict to the scene. 
Unable to see the fire which appeared so real to his monks, 
he quietly bowed his head in prayer and soon had opened 
their eyes to the foolish mistake they were making. Now, 
instead of the flames the evil spirit had devised, they once 
more saw the kitchen standing intact. 

(11) On another occasion they were working on one of 
the walls that had to be built a little higher. The man of 
God was in his room at the time, praying, when the Devil 
appeared to him and remarked sarcastically that he was on 
his way to visit the brethren at their work. Benedict quickly 
sent them word to be on their guard against the evil spirit 
who would soon be with them. Just as they received his 
warning, the Devil overturned the wall, crushing under its 
ruins the body of a very young monk who was the son of a 
tax collector. 

Unconcerned about the damaged wall in their grief and 
dismay over the loss of their brother, the monks hurried to 
Abbot Benedict to let him know of the dreadful accident. 
He told them to bring the mangled body to his room. It had 
to be carried in on a blanket, for the wall had not only 
broken the boy's arms and legs but had crushed all the bones 
in his body. The saint had the remains placed on the reed 
matting where he used to pray and after that told them all 
to leave. Then he closed the door and knelt down to offer 
his most earnest prayers to God. That very hour, to the 
astonishment of all, he sent the boy back to his work as 
sound and healthy as he had been before. Thus, in spite of 
the Devil's attempt to mock the man of God by causing this 



DIALOGUE TWO 77 

tragic death, the young monk was able to rejoin his brethren 
and help them finish the wall. 

Meanwhile, Benedict began to manifest the spirit of pro- 
phecy by foretelling future events and by describing to those 
who were with him what they had done in his absence. 

(12) It was a custom of the house, strictly observed as a 
matter of regular discipline, that monks away on business did 
not take food or drink outside the monastery. 30 One day, 
a few of them went out on an assignment which kept them 
occupied till rather late. They stopped for a meal at the 
house of a devout woman they knew in the neighborhood. 
On their return, when they presented themselves to the abbot 
for the usual blessing, he asked them where they had taken 
their meal. 

'Nowhere, 5 they answered. 

'Why are you lying to me? 3 he said. 'Did you not enter 
the house of this particular woman and eat these various 
foods and have so many cups to drink? 5 

On hearing him mention the woman's hospitality and 
exactly what she had given them to eat and drink, they 
clearly recalled the wrong they had done, fell trembling at 
his feet, and confessed their guilt. The man of God did not 
hesitate to pardon them, confident that they would do no 
further wrong in his absence, since they now realized he was 
always present with them in spirit. 

(13) The monk Valentinian, mentioned earlier in our 
narrative, had a brother who was a very devout layman. 
Every year he visited the abbey in order to get Benedict's 
blessing and see his brother. On the way he always used to 
fast. Now, one time as he was making this journey he was 

30 Cf, L. Doyle, St. Benedict's Rule /or Monasteries (Collegeville, Min- 
nesota 1948) 51.66. 



78 SAINT GREGORY 

joined by another traveler who had brought some food along. 

'Come/ said the stranger after some time had passed, 'let 
us have something to eat before we become too fatigued. 3 

'I am sorry/ the devout layman replied. C I always fast on 
my way to visit Abbot Benedict. 5 

After that the traveler was quiet for a while. But when they 
had walked along some distance together, he repeated his 
suggestion. Still mindful of his good resolve, Valentinian's 
brother again refused. His companion did not insist and once 
more agreed to accompany him a little further without 
eating. 

Then, after they had covered a great distance together 
and were very tired from the long hours of walking, they 
came upon a meadow and a spring. The whole setting seemed 
ideal for a much needed rest. 'Look, 3 said the stranger, e water 
and a meadow! What a delightful spot for us to have some 
refreshments! A little rest will give us strength to finish our 
journey without any discomfort/ 

It was such an attractive sight and this third invitation 
sounded so appealing that the devout layman was completely 
won over and stopped there to eat with his companion. 
Toward evening he arrived at the monastery and was pre- 
sented to the abbot. As soon as he asked for the blessing, 
however, the holy man reproved him for his conduct on the 
journey. 'How is it/ he said, 'that the evil spirit who spoke 
with you in the person of your traveling companion could 
not persuade you to do his will the first and second time he 
tried, but succeeded in his third attempt? 3 At this Valen- 
tinian's brother fell at Benedict's feet and admitted the weak- 
ness of his will. The thought that even from such a distance 
the saint had witnessed the wrong he had done filled him 
with shame and remorse. 



DIALOGUE TWO 79 

PETER 

This proves that the servant of God possessed the spirit of 
Eliseus. He, too, was present with one of his followers who 
was far away. 31 

GREGORY 

If you will listen a little longer. Peter, I have an incident 
to tell you that is even more astonishing. (14) Once while 
the Goths were still in power, Totila their king happened 
to be marching in the direction of Benedict's monastery. 32 
When still some distance away, he halted with his troops 
and sent a messenger ahead to announce his coming, for he 
had heard that the man of God possessed the gift of prophecy. 
As soon as he received word that he would be welcomed, 
the crafty king decided to put the saint's prophetic powers 
to a test. He had Riggo, his sword-bearer, fitted out with 
royal robes and riding boots and directed him to go in this 
disguise Jo the man of God. Vul, Ruderic and Blidin, three 
men from his own bodyguard, were to march at his side as 
if he really were king of the Goths. To supplement these 
marks of kingship, Totila also provided him with a sword- 
bearer and other attendants. 

As Riggo entered the monastery grounds in his kingly robes 
and with all his attendants, Benedict caught sight of him and 
as soon as the company came within hearing called out from 
where he sat. 'Son, lay aside the robes you are wearing/ he 

31 Cf. 4 Kings 5.25-27. 

32 The Ostrogoths were a Germanic people from Eastern Europe who 
had established their kingdom in Italy under Theodoric in 493. King 
Totila (541-52) was fighting to re-establish Gothic power there after 
it had virtually been broken by Emperor Justinian's armies during 
the previous decade. The following events probably took place when 
Totila was marching on Naples, which he captured in 543. 



80 SAINT GREGORY 

said. 'Lay them aside. They do not belong to you.' Aghast 
at seeing what a great man he had tried to mock, Riggo 
sank to the ground, and with him all the members of his 
company. Even after they had risen to their feet they did 
not dare approach the saint, but hurried back in alarm to 
tell their king how quickly they had been detected. 

(15) King Totila then went to the monastery in person. 
The moment he noticed the man of God sitting at a distance, 
he was afraid to come any closer and fell down prostrate 
where he was. Two or three times Benedict asked him to rise. 
When Totila still hesitated to do so in his presence, the servant 
of Christ walked over to him and with his own hands helped 
him from the ground. Then he rebuked the king for his crimes 
and briefly foretold everything that was going to happen to 
him. 'You are the cause of many evils,' he said. c You have 
caused many in the past. Put an end now to your wickedness. 
You will enter Rome and cross the sea. You have nine more 
years to rule, and in the tenth year you will die.' 

Terrified at these words, the king asked for a blessing and 
went away. From that time on he was less cruel. Not long 
after, he went to Rome and then crossed over to Sicily. In 
the tenth year of his reign he lost his kingdom and his life 
as almighty God had decreed. 

There is also a story about the bishop of Ganosa, 33 who 
made regular visits to the abbey and stood high in Benedict's 
esteem because of his saintly life. Once while they were 
discussing Totila's invasion and the downfall of Rome, the 
bishop said, 'The city will be destroyed by this king and left 
without a single inhabitant.' 

33 In southeastern Italy, about 120 miles from Monte Cassino. 



DIALOGUE TWO 81 

e No, 5 Benedict assured him, 'Rome will not be destroyed 
by the barbarians. It will be shaken by tempests and light- 
nings, hurricanes and earthquakes, until finally It lies buried 
in its own ruins.' 34 

The meaning of this prophecy is perfectly clear to us now. 
We have watched the walls of Rome crumble and have seen 
its homes in ruins, its churches destroyed by violent storms, 
and its dilapidated buildings surrounded by their own debris. 

Benedict's disciple Honoratus, who told me about the 
prophecy, admits he did not hear it personally, but he assures 
me that some of his own brethren gave him this account of it. 

(16) At about the same time there was a cleric from the 
church at Aquino 35 who was being tormented by an evil 
spirit. Constantius, his saintly bishop, had already sent him 
to the shrines of various martyrs in the hope that he would 
be cured. But the holy martyrs did not grant him this favor, 
preferring instead to reveal the wonderful gifts of the servant 
of God. 

As soon as the cleric was brought to him, Benedict drove 
out the evil spirit with fervent prayers to Christ. Before 
sending him back to Aquino, however, he told him to abstain 

34 This conversation is the chief reason why 547 has now been generally 
accepted as the year of St. Benedict's death. The two were evidently 
discussing the siege Totila began in October 545, which ended with 
his capture of the city in December 546. Cf. J. McCann, St. Benedict 

(New York 1937) 208-10. The fulfillment of the first part of St. 
Benedict's prophecy appears almost miraculous, for on this occasion 
the king was determined to level the entire city to the ground. He 
had already demolished a third of its walled defenses and was ready 
to set fire to all its buildings, when a plea from the shrewd imperial 
general Belisarius to spare 'the greatest and most glorious of all the 
cities under the sun, . . . the most wonderful sight in the world/ 
persuaded him to stop. Cf. T. Hodgkin, Italy and Her Invaders IV 

(Oxford 1896) 500-502. 

35 About five miles from Monte Cassino. 



82 SAINT GREGORY 

from meat thereafter and never to advance to sacred orders. 36 
'If you ignore this warning, 5 he added, c and present yourself 
for ordination, you will find yourself once more in the power 
of Satan. 3 

The cleric left completely cured, and as long as his previous 
torments were still fresh in his mind he did exactly as the 
man of God had ordered. Then with the passing of years, 
all his seniors in the clerical state died, and he had to watch 
newly ordained young men moving ahead of him in rank. 
Finally, he pretended to have forgotten about the saint's 
warning and, disregarding it, presented himself for ordina- 
tion. Instantly he was seized by the Devil and tormented 
mercilessly until he died. 

PETER 

The servant of God must even have been aware of the 
hidden designs of Providence, to have realized that this 
cleric had been handed over to Satan 37 to keep him from 
aspiring to holy orders. 

GREGORY 

Is there any reason why a person who has observed the 
commandments of God should not also know of God's secret 
designs? 'The man who unites himself to the Lord becomes 
one spirit with him/ 38 we read in sacred Scripture. 

36 Only the priesthood and the diaconate were regarded as sacred or 
holy orders before the twelfth century, when the -subdiaconate also 
came to be included among them. Cf. P. de Puniet, The Roman 
Pontifical, a History and Commentary, trans. M, Harcourt (London 
1932) 150. 

37 Cf. 1 Cor. 5.5. 

38 1 Cor. 6.17. 



DIALOGUE TWO 83 

PETER 

If everyone who unites himself to the Lord becomes one 
spirit with him, what does the renowned Apostle mean when 
he asks, 'Who has ever understood the Lord's thoughts, or 
been his counselor? 539 It hardly seems possible to be one spirit 
with a person without knowing his thoughts. 

GREGORY 

Holy men do know the Lord's thoughts, Peter, in so far as 
they are one with Him. This is clear from the Apostle's 
words, 40 c Who else can know a man's thoughts, except the 
man's own spirit that is within him? So no one else can know 
God's thoughts but the Spirit of God.' To show that he 
actually knew God's thoughts, St. Paul added: 'And what 
we have received is no spirit of worldly wisdom; it is the 
Spirit that comes from God.' And again: 'No eye has seen, 
no ear has heard, no human heart conceived, the welcome 
God has prepared for those who love him. To us, then, God 
has made a revelation of it through his Spirit. 3 

PETER 

If it is true that God's thoughts were revealed to the Apostle 
by the Holy Spirit, how could he introduce his statement 
with the words, 'How deep is the mine of God's wisdom, of 
his knowledge; how inscrutable are his judgments, how undis- 
coverable his ways!' 41 Another difficulty just occurred to me 

39 Rom. 11.34. 

40 1 Cor. 2.11,12,9. 

41 Rom. 11.33. 



84 SAINT GREGORY 

now as I was speaking. In addressing the Lord, David the 
Prophet declares, 'With my lips I have pronounced all the 
judgments of thy mouth.' 42 Surely it is a greater achieve- 
ment to express one's knowledge than merely to possess it. 
How is it, then, that St. Paul calls the judgments of God 
inscrutable, whereas David says he knows them all and has 

' 



GREGORY 

1 already gave a brief reply to both of these objections 
when I told you that holy men know God's thoughts in 
so far as they are one with Him. For all who follow 
the Lord wholeheartedly are living in spiritual union with 
Him. As long as they are still weighed down with a 
perishable body, however, they are not actually united to 
Him. It is only to the extent that they are one with God that 
they know His hidden judgments. In so far as they are not 
yet one with Him, they do not know them. Since even holy 
men cannot fully grasp the secret designs of God during this 
present life, they call His judgments inscrutable. At the same 
time, they understand His judgments and can even pronounce 
them with their lips; for they keep their hearts united to 
God by dwelling continually on the words of holy Scripture 
and on such private revelations as they may receive, until 
they grasp His meaning. In other words, they do not know 
the judgments which God conceals but only those which He 
reveals. That is why, after declaring, 'With my lips I have 
pronounced all the judgments/ the Prophet immediately 
adds the phrase, c of thy mouth, 3 as if to say, e l can know 
and pronounce only the judgments You have spoken to me. 

42 Ps. 118.13. 



DIALOGUE TWO 85 

Those You leave unspoken must remain hidden from our 
minds/ 

So the Prophet and the Apostle are in full agreement. 
God's decisions are truly unfathomable. But, once His mouth 
has made them known, they can also be proclaimed by human 
lips. What God has spoken man can know. Of the thoughts 
He has kept secret man can know nothing. 

PETER 

That is certainly a reasonable solution to the difficulties 
that I raised. If you know any other miraculous events in 
this man's life, would you continue with them now? 

GREGORY 

(17) Under the direction of Abbot Benedict a nobleman 
named Theoprobus had embraced monastic life. Because of 
his exemplary life he enjoyed the saint's personal friendship 
and confidence. One day, on entering Benedict's room, he 
found him weeping bitterly. After he had waited for some 
time and there was still no end to the abbot's tears, he asked 
what was causing him such sorrow, for he was not weeping as 
he usually did at prayer, but with deep sighs and lamentation. 

'Almighty God has decreed that this entire monastery and 
everything I have provided for the community shall fall into 
the hands of the barbarians,' the saint replied. 'It was only 
with the greatest difficulty that I could prevail upon Him 
to spare the lives of its members.' 

This was the prophecy he made to Theoprobus, and we 
have seen its fulfillment in the recent destruction of his abbey 



86 SAINT GREGORY 

by the Lombards. 43 They came at night while the community 
was asleep and plundered the entire monastery, without cap- 
turing a single monk. In this way God fulfilled His promise 
to Benedict, His faithful servant. He allowed the barbarians 
to destroy the monastery, but safeguarded the lives of the 
religious. Here you can see how the man of God resembled 
St. Paul, who had the consolation of seeing everyone with 
him escape alive from the storm, while the ship and all its 
cargo were lost. 44 

(18) Exhilaratus, a fellow Roman who, as you know, 
later became a -monk was once sent by his master to Abbot 
Benedict with two wooden flasks of wine. He delivered only 
one of them, however; the other he hid along the way. 
Benedict, who could observe even what was done in his 
absence, thanked him for the flask, but warned him as he 
turned to go: 'Son, be sure not to drink from the flask you 
have hidden away. Tilt it carefully and you will see what 
is inside. 3 

Exhilaratus left in shame and confusion and went back 
to the spot, still wishing to verify the saint's words. As he 
tilted the flask a serpent crawled out, and at the sight of it 
he was filled with horror for his misdeed. 

(19) Not far from the monastery was a village largely 
inhabited by people the saintly Benedict had converted from 
the worship of idols and instructed in the true faith. There 
were nuns living there too, and he used to send one of his 
monks down to give them spiritual conferences. 

After one of these instructions they presented the monk 
with a few handkerchiefs, which he accepted and hid away 
in his habit. As soon as he got back to the abbey he received 

43 Monte Cassino was destroyed by Duke Zotto in 589 and was not rebuilt 
until 720, under Abbot Petronax. 

44 Cf. Acts 27. 



DIALOGUE TWO 87 

a stern reproof. 'How is it, 5 the abbot asked him, c that evil 
has found its way into your heart? 3 Taken completely by sur- 
prise, the monk did not understand why he was being rebuked, 
for he had entirely forgotten about the handkerchiefs. 'Was 
I not present, 5 the saint continued, when you accepted those 
handkerchiefs from the handmaids of God and hid them 
away in your habit?' The offender instantly fell at Benedict's 
feet, confessed his fault, and gave up the present he had 
received. 45 

(20) Once when the saintly abbot was taking his evening 
meal, a young monk whose father was a high-ranking official 46 
happened to be holding the lamp for him. As he stood at 
the abbot's table the spirit of pride began to stir in his heart. 
'Who is this,' he thought to himself, c that I should have to 
stand here holding the lamp for him while he is eating? Who 
am I to be serving him?' 

Turning to him at once, Benedict gave the monk a sharp 
reprimand. 'Brother,' he said, 'sign your heart with the sign 
of the cross. What are you saying? Sign your heart!' Then, 
calling the others together, he had one of them take the 
lamp instead, and told the murmurer to sit down by himself 
and be quiet. Later, when asked what he had done wrong, 
the monk explained how he had given in to the spirit of pride 
and silently murmured against the man of God. At this the 
brethren all realized that nothing could be kept secret from 
their holy abbot, since he could hear even the unspoken 
sentiments of the heart. 



45 Cf. Doyle, St. Benedict's Rule 54.69-70. 

46 Literally 'a protector'; very likely, a 'protector of the municipality* 

(defensor civitatis) , the city official who safeguarded the people from 
exorbitant prices and the dishonesty of private tax collectors. In St. 
Benedict's time he was one of the most prominent figures in the 
cities of Italy, a fact which may account for the attitude of this young 
monk in the following incident. 



88 SAINT GREGORY 

(21) During a time of famine 47 the severe shortage of 
food was causing a great deal of suffering in Campania. At 
Benedict's monastery the entire grain supply had been used 
up and nearly all the bread was gone as well. In fact, when 
mealtime came, only five loaves could be found to set before 
the community. Noticing how downcast they were, the saint 
gently reproved them for their lack of trust in God and at 
the same time tried to raise their dejected spirits with a 
comforting assurance. 'Why are you so depressed at the lack 
of bread?' he asked. 'What if today there is only a little? 
Tomorrow you will have more than you need.' 

The next day 200 measures of flour were found in sacks 
at the gate of the monastery, but no one ever discovered 
whose services almighty God had employed in bringing them 
there. When they saw what had happened, the monks were 
filled with gratitude and learned from this miracle that even 
in their hour of need they must not lose faith in the bountiful 
goodness of God. 

PETER 

Are we to believe that the spirit of prophecy remained 
with the servant of God at all times, or did he receive it 
only on special occasions? 

GREGORY 

The spirit of prophecy does not enlighten the minds of the 
prophets constantly, Peter. We read in sacred Scripture that 
the Holy Spirit breathes where He pleases, 48 and we should 

47 Possibly the great famine of 537-38. 

48 Cf. John 3.8. 



DIALOGUE TWO 



89 



also realize that He breathes when He pleases. For example, 
when King David asked whether he could build a temple, 
the Prophet Nathan gave his consent, but later had to with- 
draw it. 49 And Eliseus once found a woman in tears without 
knowing the reason for her grief. That is why he told his 
servant who was trying to interfere, 'Let her alone, for her 
soul is in anguish and the Lord has hidden it from me and 
has not told me.' 50 

All this reflects God's boundless wisdom and love. By 
granting these men the spirit of prophecy He raises their 
minds high above the world, and by withdrawing it again 
He safeguards their humility. When the spirit of prophecy 
is with them they learn what they are by God's mercy. When 
the spirit leaves them they discover what they are of them- 
selves. 

PETER 

This convincing argument leaves no room for doubt about 
the truth of what you say. Please resume your narrative now, 
if you recall any other incidents in the life of blessed Benedict. 

GREGORY 

(22) A Catholic layman once asked him to found a monas- 
tery on his estate at Terracina. 51 The servant of God readily 
consented and, after selecting several of his monks for this 
undertaking, appointed one of them abbot and another his 
assistant. Before they left he specified a day on which he 
would come to show them where to build the chapel, the 

49 Cf. 2 Kings 7. 

50 4 Kings 4.27. 

51 A seaport some thirty miles southwest of Monte Cassino. 



90 SAINT GREGORY 

refectory, a house for guests, and the other buildings they 
would need. Then he gave them his blessing. 

After their arrival at Terracina they looked forward eagerly 
to the day he had set for his visit and prepared to receive 
the monks who would accompany him. Before dawn of the 
appointed day, Benedict appeared in a dream to the new 
abbot as well as to his prior and showed them exactly where 
each section of the monastery was to stand. In the morning 
they told each other what they had seen, but, instead of 
putting their entire trust in the vision, they kept waiting for 
the promised visit. When the day passed without any word 
from Benedict, they returned to him disappointed. 'Father/ 
they said, we were waiting for you to show us where to 
build, as you assured us you would, but you did not come.' 

What do you mean?' he replied. 'Did I not come as I 
promised?' 

'When? 3 they asked. 

'Did I not appear to both of you in a dream as you slept 
and indicate where each building was to stand? Go back 
and build as you were directed in the vision.' 

They returned to Terracina, filled with wonder, and con- 
structed the monastery according to the plans he had revealed 
to them. 

PETER 

I wish you would explain how Benedict could possibly 
travel that distance and then in a vision give these monks 
directions which they could hear and understand while they 
were asleep. 

52 Cf. Dan. 14.32-38. 



DIALOGUE TWO 91 

GREGORY 

What is there in this incident that should raise a doubt 
in your mind. Peter? Everyone knows that the soul is far 
more agile than the body. Yet we have it on the authority 
of holy Scripture that the Prophet Habacuc was lifted from 
Judea to Chaldea in an instant, so that he might share his 
dinner with the Prophet Daniel, and presently found himself 
back in Judea again. 52 If Habacuc could cover such a distance 
in a brief moment to take a meal to his fellow Prophet, is 
it not understandable that Abbot Benedict could go in 
spirit to his sleeping brethren with the information they 
required? As the Prophet came in body with food for the 
body, Benedict came in spirit to promote the life of the soul. 

PETER 

Your words seem to smooth away all my doubts. Could 
you tell me now what this saint was like in his everyday 
speech? 

GREGORY 

(23) There was a trace of the marvelous in nearly every- 
thing he said, Peter, and his words" never failed to take effect 
because his heart was fixed in God. Even when he uttered 
a simple threat that was indefinite and conditional, it was 
just as decisive as a final verdict. 

Some distance from the abbey two women of noble birth 
were leading the religious life in their own home. A God- 
fearing layman was kind enough to bring them what they 
needed from the outside world. Unfortunately, as is some- 



92 SAINT GREGORY 

times the case, their character stood in sharp contrast to the 
nobility of their birth, and they were too conscious of their 
former importance to practice true humility toward others. 
Even under the restraining influence of religious life they 
still had not learned to control their tongues, and the good 
layman who served them so faithfully was often provoked 
at their harsh criticisms. After putting up with their insults 
for a long time, he went to blessed Benedict and told him 
how inconsiderate they were. The man of God immediately 
warned them to curb their sharp tongues and added that he 
would have to excommunicate them if they did not. This 
sentence of excommunication was not actually pronounced, 
therefore, but only threatened. 

A short time afterward the two nuns died without any 
sign of amendment and were buried in their parish church. 
Whenever Mass was celebrated, their old nurse, who regu- 
larly made an offering for them, noticed that each time the 
deacon announced, 'The non-communicants must now leave/ 
the nuns rose from their tombs and went outside. 53 This 
happened repeatedly, until one day she recalled the warning 
Benedict had given them while they were still alive, when 
he threatened to deprive them of communion with the 
Church if they kept on speaking so uncharitably. 

The grief-stricken nurse had Abbot Benedict informed of 
what was happening. He sent her messengers back with an 
oblation and said, 'Have this offered up for their souls during 
the Holy Sacrifice, and they will be freed from the sentence 
of excommunication.' The offering was made and after that 
the nuns were not seen leaving the church any more at the 

53 The deacon's words applied to the unbaptized and the excommuni- 
cated, who were not allowed to remain for the Mass of the Faithful. 
Their dismissal took place after the Gospel and sermon. 



DIALOGUE TWO 93 

deacon's dismissal of the non-communicants. Evidently, they 
had been admitted to communion with our blessed Lord in 
answer to the prayers of His servant Benedict. 

PETER 

Is it not extraordinary that souls already judged at God's 
invisible tribunal could be pardoned by a man who was still 
living in the mortal flesh, however holy and revered he may 
have been? 

GREGORY 

What of Peter the Apostle? Was he not still living in the 
flesh when he heard the words, 'Whatever thou shalt bind 
on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever thou shalt 
loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven'? 54 All those who 
govern the Church in matters of faith and morals exercise 
the same power of binding and loosing that he received. In 
fact, the Creator's very purpose in coming down from heaven 
to earth was to impart to earthly man this heavenly power. 
It was when God was made flesh for man's sake that flesh 
received its undeserved prerogative of sitting in judgment even 
over spirits. What raised our weakness to these heights was 
the descent of an almighty God to the depths of our own 
helplessness. 

PETER 

Your lofty words are certainly in harmony with these 
mighty deeds. 

54 Matt. 16.19. 



94 SAINT GREGORY 

GREGORY 

(24) One time, a young monk who was too attached to 
his parents left the monastery without asking for the abbot's 
blessing and went home. No sooner had he arrived there he 
died. The day after his burial his body was discovered lying 
outside the grave. His parents had him buried again, but on 
the following day found the body unburied as before. In their 
dismay they hurried to the saintly abbot and pleaded with 
him to forgive the boy for what he had done. Moved by 
their tears, Benedict gave them a consecrated Host with his 
own hands. 'When you get back,' he said, 'place this sacred 
Host upon his breast and bury him once more.' 55 They did 
so, and thereafter his body remained in the earth without 
being disturbed again. 

Now, Peter, you can appreciate how pleasing this holy 
man was in God's sight. Not even the earth would retain 
the young monk's body until he had been reconciled with 
blessed Benedict. 

PETER 

I assure you I do. It is really amazing. 
GREGORY 

(25) One of Benedict's monks had set his fickle heart on 
leaving the monastery. Time and again the man of God 

55 During the first centuries laypeople were permitted to handle the 
Blessed Sacrament and even keep it in their homes. The practice of 
placing a consecrated Host on the bodies of those who died in union 
with the Church was quite common in St. Benedict's time. Cf. A. 
Rush, Death and Burial in Christian Antiquity (Washington 194D 
99-101. 5 ' 



DIALOGUE TWO 95 

pointed out how wrong this was and tried to reason with 
him but without any success. The monk persisted obstinately 
in his request to be released. Finally, Benedict lost patience 
with him and told him to go. 

Hardly had he left the monastery grounds when he noticed 
to his horror that a dragon with gaping jaws was blocking 
his way. 'Help ! Help !' he cried out, trembling, 'or the dragon 
will devour me. 3 His brethren ran to the rescue, but could 
see nothing of the dragon. Still breathless with fright, the 
monk was only too glad to accompany them back to the 
abbey. Once safe within its walls, he promised never to leave 
again. And this time he kept his word, for Benedict's prayers 
had enabled him to see with his own eyes the invisible dragon 
that had been leading him astray. 56 

(26) I must tell you now of an event I heard from the 
distinguished Anthony. One of his father's servants had been 
seized with a severe case of leprosy. His hair was already 
falling out and his skin growing thick and swollen. The fatal 
progress of the disease was unmistakable. In this condition 
he was sent to the man of God, who instantly restored him 
to his previous state of health. 

(27) Benedict's disciple Peregrinus tells of a Catholic lay- 
man who was heavily burdened with debt and felt that his 
only hope was to disclose the full extent of his misfortune 
to the man of God. So he went to him and explained that 
he was being constantly tormented by a creditor to whom he 
owed twelve gold pieces. 

'I am very sorry,' the saintly abbot replied. 'I do not have 
that much money in my possession.' Then, to comfort the poor 
man in his need, he added, 'I cannot give you anything 
today, but come back again the day after tomorrow.' 

56 Cf. Apoc. 12.3-9. 



96 SAINT GREGORY 

In the meantime the saint devoted himself to prayer with 
his accustomed fervor. When the debtor returned, the monks, 
to their surprise, found thirteen gold pieces lying on top of 
a chest that was filled with grain. Benedict had the money 
brought down at once. 'Here, take these/ he told him. 'Use 
twelve to pay your creditor and keep the thirteenth for 
yourself.' 

I should like to return now to some other events I learned 
from the saint's four disciples who were mentioned at the 
beginning of this book. 

There was a man who had become so embittered with 
envy that he tried to kill his rival by secretly poisoning his 
drink. Though the poison did not prove fatal, it produced 
horrible blemishes resembling leprosy, which spread over the 
entire body of the unfortunate victim. In this condition he 
was brought to the servant of God, who cured the disease 
with a touch of his hand and sent him home in perfect 
health. 

(28) While Campania was suffering from famine, 57 the 
holy abbot distributed the food supplies of his monastery to 
the needy until there was nothing left in the storeroom but 
a little oil in a glass vessel. One day, when Agapitus, a sub- 
deacon, came to beg for some oil, the man of God ordered 
the little that remained to be given to him, for he wanted 
to distribute everything he had to the poor and thus store 
up riches in heaven. 58 

The cellarer listened to the abbot's command, but did not 
carry it out. After a while, Benedict asked him whether he 
had given Agapitus the oil. 'No,' he replied, C I did not. If 
I had, there would be none left for the community. 5 This 

57 See above, p. 88. 

58 Cf. Luke 18.22. 



DIALOGUE TWO 97 

angered the man of God, who wanted nothing to remain 
in the monastery through disobedience, and he told another 
monk to take the glass with the oil in it and throw it out 
the window. This time he was obeyed. 

Even though it struck against the jagged rocks of the cliff 
just below the window, the glass remained intact as if it had 
not been thrown at all. It was still unbroken and none of 
the oil had spilled. Abbot Benedict had the glass brought 
back and given to the subdeacon. Then he sent for the rest 
of the community and in their presence rebuked the disobe- 
dient monk for his pride and lack of faith. 

(29) After that the saint knelt down to pray with his 
brethren. In the room where they were kneeling there hap- 
pened to be an empty oil-cask that was covered with a lid. 
In the course of his prayer the cask gradually filled with oil 
and the lid started to float on top of it. The next moment the 
oil was running down the sides of the cask and covering the 
floor. As soon as he was aware of this, Benedict ended his 
prayer and the oil stopped flowing. Then, turning to the 
monk who had shown himself disobedient and wanting in 
confidence, he urged him again to strive to grow in faith and 
humility. 

This wholesome reprimand filled the cellarer with shame. 
Besides inviting him to trust in God, the saintly abbot had 
clearly shown by his miracle what marvelous power such 
trust possesses. In the/ future who could doubt any of his 
promises? Had he not in a moment's time replaced the little 
oil still left in the glass with a cask that was full to overflowing? 

(30) One day, on his way to the Chapel of St. John at 
the highest point of the mountain, Benedict met the ancient 
Enemy of mankind, disguised as a veterinarian with medicine 
horn and triple shackle. 



98 SAINT GREGORY 

'Where are you going?' the saint asked him. 

To your brethren, 5 he replied with scorn. 1 am bringing 
them some medicine/ 

'Benedict continued on his way and after his prayer hurried 
back. Meanwhile, the evil spirit had entered one of the older 
monks whom he found drawing water and had thrown him 
to the ground in a violent convulsion. When the man of 
God caught sight of this old brother in such torment, he 
merely struck him on the cheek, and the evil spirit was 
promptly driven out, never to return. 

PETER 

I should like to know whether he always obtained these 
great miracles through fervent prayer. Did he never perform 
them at will? 

GREGORY 

It is quite common for those who devoutly cling to God 
to work miracles in both of these ways, Peter, either through 
their prayers or by their own power, as circumstances may 
dictate. Since we read in St. John that c all those who did 
welcome him he empowered to become the children of God, 359 
why should we be surprised if those who are the children 
of God use this power to work signs and wonders? Holy men 
can undoubtedly perform miracles in either of the ways you 
mentioned, as is clear from the fact that St. Peter raised 
Tabitha to life by praying over her, and by a simple rebuke 
brought death to Ananias and Sapphira for their lies. 60 Scrip- 
ture does not say that he prayed for their death, but only that 

59 John 1.12. 

60 Cf. Acts 9.36-41; 5.1-10. 



DIALOGUE TWO 99 

he reprimanded them for the crime they had committed. Now, 
if St. Peter could restore to life by a prayer and deprive of 
life by a rebuke, is there any reason to doubt that the saints 
can perform miracles by their own power as well as through 
their prayers? 

I am now going to consider two instances in the life of 
God's faithful servant Benedict. One of them shows the 
efficacy of his prayer; the other, the marvelous powers that 
were his by God's gift. 

(31) In the days of King Totila one of the Goths, the 
Arian heretic Zalla, had been persecuting devout Catholics 
everywhere with the utmost cruelty. No monk or cleric who 
fell into his hands ever escaped alive. In his merciless brutality 
and greed he was one day lashing and torturing a farmer 
whose money he was after. Unable to bear it any longer, 
the poor man tried to save his life by telling Zalla that all 
his money was in Abbot Benedict's keeping. He only hoped 
his tormentor would believe him and put a stop to his bru- 
tality. When Zalla heard this, he did stop beating him, but 
immediately bound his hands together with a heavy cord. 
Then, mounting his horse, he forced the farmer to walk 
ahead of him and lead the way to this Benedict who was 
keeping his money. 

The helpless prisoner had no choice but to conduct him 
to the abbey. When they arrived, they found the man of 
God sitting alone in front of the entrance reading. 'This is 
the Abbot Benedict I meant/ he told the infuriated Goth 
behind him. 

Imagining that this holy man could be frightened as readily 
as anyone else, Zalla glared at him with eyes full of hate 
and shouted harshly, 'Get up! Do you hear? Get up and 
give back the money this man left with you!' At the sound 



1 00 SAINT GREGORY 

of this angry voice the man of God looked up from his 
reading and, as he glanced toward Zalla, noticed the farmer 
with his hands bound together. The moment he caught sight 
of the cord that held them, it fell miraculously to the ground. 
Human hands could never have unfastened it so quickly. 

Stunned at the hidden power that had set his prisoner free, 
Zalla fell trembling to his knees and, bending his stubborn, 
cruel neck at the saint's feet, begged for his prayers. With- 
out rising from his place, Benedict called for his monks and 
had them take Zalla inside for some food and drink. After 
that he urged him to give up his heartless cruelty. Zalla went 
away thoroughly humbled and made no more demands on 
this farmer who had been freed from his bonds by a mere 
glance from the man of God. 

So you see, Peter, what I said is true. Those who devote 
themselves wholeheartedly to the service of God can some- 
times work miracles by their own power. Blessed Benedict 
checked the fury of a dreaded Goth without even rising to 
his feet, and with a mere glance unfastened the heavy cord 
that bound the hands of an innocent man. The very speed 
with which he performed this marvel is proof enough that 
he did it by his own power. 

And now, here is a remarkable miracle that was the result 
of his prayer. (32) One day, when he was out working in 
the fields with his monks, a farmer came to the monastery 
carrying in his arms the lifeless body of his son. Broken- 
hearted at his loss, he begged to see the saintly abbot and, 
on learning that he was at work in the fields, left the dead 
body at the entrance of the monastery and hurried off to 
work. The moment the farmer caught sight of him he cried 
find him. By then the abbot was already returning from his 



DIALOGUE TWO 101 

out, 'Give me back my son ! Give me back my son P 

Benedict stopped when he heard this. 'But I have not 
taken your son from you, have I? 3 he asked. 

The boy's father only replied, 'He is dead. Come! Bring 
him back to life. 3 

Deeply grieved at his words, the man of God turned to 
his disciples. 'Stand back, brethren!' he said. 'Stand back! 
Such a miracle is beyond our power. The holy Apostles are 
the only ones who can raise the dead. 61 Why are you so 
eager to accept what is impossible for us?' 

But overwhelming sorrow compelled the man to keep on 
pleading. He even declared with an oath that he would not 
leave until Benedict restored his son to life. The saint then 
asked him where the body was. 'At the entrance to the 
monastery, 5 he answered. 

When Benedict arrived there with his monks, he knelt 
down beside the child's body and bent over it. Then, rising, 
he lifted his hands to heaven in prayer. 'O Lord,' he said, 
'do not consider my sins but the faith of this man who is 
asking to see his son alive again, and restore to this body the 
soul You have taken from it.' 

His prayer was hardly over when the child's whole body 
began once more to throb with life. No one present there could 
doubt that this sudden stirring was due to a heavenly inter- 
vention. Benedict then took the little boy by the hand and 
gave him back to his father alive and well. 

Obviously, Peter, he did not have the power to work this 
miracle himself. Otherwise he would not have begged for it 
prostrate in prayer. 

61 Cf. Acts 9.36-41; 20.9JO. 



102 SAINT GREGORY 

PETER 

The way facts bear out your words convinces me that 
everything you have said is true. Will you please tell me now 
whether holy men can always carry out their wishes, or at 
least obtain through prayer whatever they desire? 

GREGORY 

(33) Peter, will there ever be a holier man in this world 
than St. Paul? Yet he prayed three times to the Lord about 
the sting in his flesh and could not obtain his wish. 62 In this 
connection I must tell you how the saintly Benedict once 
had a wish he was unable to fulfill. 

His sister Scholastica, who had been consecrated to God 
in early childhood, used to visit with him once a year. On 
these occasions he would go down to meet her in a house 
belonging to the monastery, a short distance from the 
entrance. 

For this particular visit he joined her there with a few of 
his disciples and they spent the whole day singing God's 
praises and conversing about the spiritual life. When darkness 
was setting in, they took their meal together and continued 
their conversation at table until it was quite late. Then the 
holy nun said to him, Tlease do not leave me tonight, brother. 
Let us keep on talking about the joys of heaven till morning.' 

'What are you saying, sister?' he replied. 'You know I 
cannot stay away from the monastery. 3 

The sky was so clear at the time that there was not a cloud 
in sight. At her brother's refusal Scholastica folded her hands 
on the table and rested her head upon them in earnest prayer. 

62 Cf. 2 Cor. 12.7-9. 



DIALOGUE TWO 1 03 

When she looked up again, there was a sudden burst of 
lightning and thunder, accompanied by such a downpour 
that Benedict and his companions were unable to set a foot 
outside the door. 

By shedding a flood of tears while she prayed, this holy 
nun had darkened the cloudless sky with a heavy rain. The 
storm began as soon as her prayer was over. In fact, the two 
coincided so closely that the thunder was already resounding 
as she raised her head from the table. The very instant she 
ended her prayer the rain poured down. 

Realizing that he could not return to the monastery in 
this terrible storm, Benedict complained bitterly. 'God forgive 
you, sister!' he said. 'What have you done?' 

Scholastica simply answered, 'When I appealed to you, 
you would not listen to me. So I turned to my God and He 
heard my prayer. Leave now if you can. Leave me here and 
go back to your monastery/ 

This, of course, he could not do. He had no choice now 
but to stay, in spite of his unwillingness. They spent the entire 
night together and both of them derived great profit from 
the holy thoughts they exchanged about the interior life. 

Here you have my reason for saying that this holy man 
was once unable to obtain what he desired. If we consider 
his point of view, we can readily see that he wanted the 
sky to remain as clear as it was when he came down from 
the monastery. But this wish of his was thwarted by a miracle 
almighty God performed in answer to a woman's prayer. We 
need not be surprised that in this instance she proved mightier 
than her brother; she had been looking forward so long to this 
visit. Do we not read in St. John that God is love? 63 Surely 

63 Cf. 1 John 4.16. 



104 SAINT GREGORY 

it is no more than right that her influence was greater than 
his, since hers was the greater love. 

PETER 

I find this discussion very enjoyable. 
GREGORY 

(34) The next morning Scholastica returned to her convent 
and Benedict to his monastery. Three days later as he stood 
in his room looking up toward the sky, he beheld his sister's 
soul leaving her body and entering the court of heaven in 
the form of a dove. 

Overjoyed at her eternal glory, he gave thanks to God 
in hymns of praise. Then, after informing his brethren of her 
death, he sent some of them to bring her body to the monas- 
tery and bury it in the tomb he had prepared for himself. 
The bodies of these two were now to share a common resting 
place, just as in life their souls had always been one in God. 

(35) At another time, the deacon Servandus came to see 
the servant of God on one of his regular visits. He was abbot 
of the monastery in Campania that had been built by the 
late Senator Liberius, and always welcomed an opportunity 
to discuss with Benedict the truths of eternity, for he, too, 
was a man of deep spiritual understanding. In speaking of 
their hopes and longings they were able to taste in advance 
the heavenly food that was not yet fully theirs to enjoy. When 
it was time to retire for the night, Benedict went to his room 
on the second floor of the tower, 64 leaving Servandus in the 

64 The watchtower just inside the gate of the ancient fortress; cf. n. 28. 



DIALOGUE TWO 1 05 

one below, which was connected with his own by a stairway. 
Their disciples slept in the large building facing the tower. 

Long before the night office began, the man of God was 
standing at his window, where he watched and prayed while 
the rest were still asleep. In the dead of night he suddenly 
beheld a flood of light shining down from above more bril- 
liant than the sun, and with it every trace of darkness cleared 
away. Another remarkable sight followed. According to his 
own description, the whole world was gathered up before 
his eyes in what appeared to be a single ray of light. As he 
gazed at all this dazzling display, he saw the soul of Germanus, 
the Bishop of Capua, being carried by angels up to heaven 
in a ball of fire. 

Wishing to have someone else witness this great marvel, 
he called out for Servandus, repeating his name two or three 
times in a loud voice. As soon as he heard the saint's call, 
Servandus rushed to the upper room and was just in time 
to catch a final glimpse of the miraculous light. He remained 
speechless with wonder as Benedict described everything that 
had taken place. Then without any delay the man of God 
instructed the devout Theoprobus to go to Gassino and have 
a messenger sent to Capua that same night to find out what 
had happened to Germanus. 65 In carrying out these instru c- 
tions the messenger discovered that the revered bishop was 
already dead. When he asked for further details, he learned 
that his death had occurred at the very time blessed Benedict 
saw him carried into heaven. 66 



65 Capua is about forty miles southeast of Cassino. 

66 Germanus died in 541; cf. J. Chapman, Saint Benedict and the Sixth 
Century (London 1929) 125-26. 



106 SAINT GREGORY 

PETER 

What an astounding miracle! I hardly know what to 
think when I hear you say that he saw the whole world 
gathered up before his eyes in what appeared to be a single 
ray of light. I have never had such an experience. How is 
it possible for anyone to see the whole universe at a glance? 

GREGORY 

Keep this well in mind, Peter. All creation is bound to 
appear small to a soul that sees the Creator. Once it beholds 
a little of His light, it finds all creatures small indeed. The 
light of holy contemplation enlarges and expands the mind 
in God until it stands above the world. In fact, the soul that 
sees Him rises even above itself, and as it is drawn upward in 
His light all its inner powers unfold. Then, when it looks down 
from above, it sees how small everything is that was beyond 
its grasp before. 

Now, Peter, how else was it possible for this man to behold 
the ball of fire and watch the angels on their return to heaven 
except with light from God? Why should it surprise us, then, 
that he could see the whole world gathered up before him 
after this inner light had lifted him so far above the world? 
Of course, in saying that the world was gathered up before 
his eyes I do not mean that heaven and earth grew small, 
but that his spirit was enlarged. Absorbed as he was in God, 
it was now easy for him to see all that lay beneath God. In 
the light outside that was shining before his eyes, there was 
a brightness which reached into his mind and lifted his spirit 
heavenward, showing him the insignificance of all that lies 
below. 



DIALOGUE TWO 107 

PETER 

My difficulty in understanding you has proved of real 
benefit, the explanation it led to was so thorough. Now that 
you have cleared up this problem for me, would you return 
once more to your account of blessed Benedict's life? 

GREGORY 

(36) I should like to tell you much more about this saintly 
abbot, but I am purposely passing over some of his miraculous 
deeds in my eagerness to take up those of others. There is 
one more point, however, I want to call to your attention. 
With all the renown he gained by his numerous miracles, the 
holy man was no less outstanding for the wisdom of his 
teaching. He wrote a Rule for Monks that is remarkable for 
its discretion and its clarity of language. Anyone who wishes 
to know more about his life and character can discover in 
his Rule exactly what he was like as abbot, for his life could 
not have differed from his teaching. 

(37) In the year that was to be his last, the man of God 
foretold the day of his holy death to a number of his disciples. 
In mentioning it to some who were with him in the monas- 
tery, he bound them to strict secrecy. Some others, however, 
who were stationed elsewhere he only informed of the special 
sign they would receive at the time of his death. 

Six days before he died he gave orders for his tomb to be 
opened. Almost immediately he was seized with a violent 
fever that rapidly wasted his remaining strength. Each day 
his condition grew worse until finally, on the sixth day, he had 
his disciples carry him into the chapel, where he received the 
Body and Blood of our Lord to gain strength for his approach- 



108 SAINT GREGORY 

ing end. Then, supporting his weakened body on the arms of 
his brethren, he stood with his hands raised to heaven and as 
he prayed breathed his last. 67 

That day two monks, one of them at the monastery, the 
other some distance away, received the very same revelation. 
They both saw a magnificent road covered with rich carpeting 
and glittering with thousands of lights. From his monastery 
it stretched eastward in a straight line until it reached up 
into heaven. And there in the brightness stood a man of 
majestic appearance, who asked them, 'Do you know who 
passed this way?' 

'No,' they replied. 

This/ he told them, is the road taken by blessed Benedict, 
the Lord's beloved, when he went to heaven. 5 

Thus, while the brethren who were with Benedict witnessed 
his death, those who were absent knew about it through the 
sign he had promised them. His body was laid to rest in the 
Chapel of St. John the Baptist, which he had built to replace 
the altar of Apollo. 

(38) Even in the cave at Subiaco, where he had lived 
before, this holy man still works numerous miracles for 
people who turn to him with faith and confidence. The in- 
cident I am going to relate happened only recently. 

A woman who had completely lost her mind was roaming 
day and night over hills and valleys, through forests and 
fields, resting only when she was utterly exhausted. One day, 
in the course of her aimless wanderings, she strayed into the 
saint's cave and rested there without the least idea of where 
she was. The next morning she woke up entirely cured and 
left the cave without even a trace of her former affliction. 
After that she remained free from it for the rest of her life. 

67 At present, the generally accepted date for his death is March 21, 
547; cf. n. 34. 



DIALOGUE TWO 109 

PETER 

How is it that, as a rule, even the martyrs in their care 
for us do not grant the same great favors through their 
bodily remains as they do through their other relics? We 
find them so often performing more outstanding miracles 
away from their burial places. 

GREGORY 

There is no doubt. Peter, that the holy martyrs can perform 
countless miracles where their bodies rest. And they do so in 
behalf of all who pray there with a pure intention. In places 
where their bodies do not actually lie buried, however, there 
is danger that those whose faith is weak may doubt their 
presence and their power to answer prayers. Consequently, it 
is in these places that they must perform still greater miracles. 
But one whose faith in God is strong earns all the more 
merit by his faith, for he realizes that the martyrs are present 
to hear his prayers even though their bodies happen to be 
buried elsewhere. 

It was precisely to increase the faith of His disciples that 
the eternal Truth told them, c lf I do not go, the Advocate 
will not come to you. 568 Now certainly the Holy Spirit, the 
Advocate, is ever proceeding from the Father and the Son. 69 
Why, then, should the Son say He will go in order that the 
Spirit may come, when, actually, the Spirit never leaves Him? 
The point is that as long as the disciples could see our Lord 
in His human flesh they would want to keep on seeing Him 
with their bodily eyes. With good reason, therefore, did He 

68 John 16.7 (Confraternity version) . 

69 Cf. John 15.26. 



110 SAINT GREGORY 

tell them, If I do not go, the Advocate will not cortie/ What 
He really meant was, C I cannot teach you spiritual love unless 
I remove my body from your sight; as long as you continue 
to see me with your bodily eyes you will never leam to love 
me spiritually.* 

PETER 

That is a very satisfying explanation. 
GREGORY 

Let us interrupt our discussion for a while. If we are going 
to take up the miracles of other holy men, we shall need a 
short period of silence to rest our voices. 




BOOK THREE 



Prologue 

| N DIRECTING MY ATTENTION to our more recent saints, 
I left those of the more distant past untouched. As 
a result I have apparently overlooked the miracles 
of Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, who is of an earlier period and 
more outstanding than many of the holy men whose memory 
I am recalling. So, I now am going back to set down briefly 
whatever facts I can gather about our earlier saints. 

The deeds of good men usually become known most quickly 
to those of similar character. Consequently, our forefathers, 
who modeled their lives on the example of the saints, were 
well acquainted with the name of Paulinus. His wonderful 
life exerted a decisive influence in building up their zeal. 
Relying on their mature years, I could not but believe what 
they told me as if I had seen the events with my own eyes. 
(1) While Campania was being devastated by the bar- 
barian Vandals during their occupation of Italy, many Italian 
citizens were carried off into Africa. It was during these 
difficult days that the man of God, Paulinus, distributed the 

111 



112 SAINT GREGORY 

furnishings of his episcopal residence to- these prisoners and 
other needy persons until there was nothing whatever left for 
him to give. Then a widow came to his door complaining 
that her son had been taken prisoner by the Vandal king's 
son-in-law. Would the bishop be so kind as to give her money 
to ransom her son and bring him home, if his master were 
willing to bargain for his release? Paulinus looked carefully 
through the house to see what he could find. There was 
nothing left to give away except himself. 

'Woman, 5 he said, 1 have nothing left to give you. Here, 
take me! Claim me as your rightful slave. Hand me over 
into slavery in your son's place and so let him be restored 
to you.' 

Coming from a man of high authority, these words sounded 
to her more like mockery than compassion. But Paulinus, 
eloquent as he was and well trained in the art of expression, 
soon persuaded the doubting woman to put full confidence 
in his words and not hesitate to hand him over to slavery, 
bishop though he was, for the ransom of her son. 

Both set out for Africa. One day, when the king's son-in- 
law was passing along, the widow approached him to make 
her request. First she begged that her son be given back to 
her. But the haughty barbarian, elated over his temporary 
prosperity, scorned her request and refused to listen. So she 
quickly added: 'Sir, I am offering you this man to take my 
son's place. All I ask is that you have consideration for a 
mother's love and give me back my son/ 

The king's son-in-law looked closely at Paulinus and, notic- 
ing his fine features, asked what trade he knew. I am not a 
craftsman/ answered the bishop, 'but I can cultivate a fine 
garden.' 

Highly pleased to hear that Paulinus was skilled in garden- 



DIALOGUE THREE 113 

ing, the barbarian accepted her offer and took the bishop as 
his slave. The widow then returned to Italy with her son, 
while Paulinus took up his work as gardener. 

The king's son-in-law often came into the garden to inquire 
about various matters, and soon realized that his servant was 
a very wise man. Before long he began to neglect the com- 
panionship of his old friends for that of his new gardener, 
whose conversation he enjoyed so much. Paulinus, on his 
part, brought a fresh supply of fragrant herbs to his master's 
table every day and received a portion of bread in return. 
Then he would go back to his work in the garden. 

One day, after this had been going for some time, Paulinus 
said to his master in the course of a private conversation, 
'Consider what you are going to do in order to make a 
proper disposition of the king's domains, because he will soon 
die a sudden death.' 

The son-in-law, who stood higher in royal favor than any 
one else, did not keep this conversation to himself, but told 
the king everthing the wise and learned gardener had said. 
The king was interested and said, C I wish to see this man of 
whom you speak.' 

'He supplies my table with fresh herbs every day,' his son- 
in-law answered. e l will have him bring them here to your 
table instead, then you can become acquainted with him.' 

When the king sat down to his meal, Paulinus came in 
from his work with various kinds of fragrant herbs and greens 
to set on the table. The king began to tremble as soon as he 
caught sight of him, and, beckoning to his son-in-law, revealed 
to him a fact that he had kept secret till then. 'What you 
heard is true, 5 he confessed. Tor last night in a dream I saw 
judges sitting opposite me in a courtroom and this man was 
one of them. By their verdict the scourge I had once been 



114 SAINT GREGORY 

given was taken from my hand. Go, therefore, and find out 
who he really is, for I suspect that a man of such merit is 
not the ordinary person he appears to be/ 

The son-in-law took Paulinus aside and quietly asked him 
who he was. 'I am your servant/ answered the saint, 'whom 
you accepted in the place of the widow's son.' 

But when the other insisted and repeatedly urged him to 
tell what he had been in his own country, not what he was 
now, the man of God, though bound by a solemn oath, 
could no longer hide his identity and confessed that he was 
a bishop. 

Hearing this, the barbarian was overawed. Ask what you 
will, 5 he said. 'Only do not return to your homeland without 
rich presents from me.' 

To this Paulinus answered, The best gift you can offer 
me is to free all my fellow citizens from captivity. 5 

Without delay, these captives were brought together from 
different parts of Africa and, as a special act of courtesy to 
Paulinus, were set aboard ships loaded with grain, to sail back 
to Italy together with their saintly bishop. 

A few days later, the Vandal king died, and so, in fulfill- 
ment of God's plan, lost the scourge he had wielded to his 
own damnation, as well as for the chastisement of the faithful. 
Paulinus, God's servant, had spoken the truth. Furthermore, 
by surrendering himself into slavery, he had led a great 
multitude back to freedom, imitating Christ, who had taken 
the nature of a slave to rescue us from being the slaves of 
sin. 1 Following Christ's example, Paulinus had freely chosen 
the lot of a slave for a time, that he might thereafter enjoy 
liberty with many. 

1 Cf. Phil. 2.7; Rom. 6.15-23. 



DIALOGUE THREE 115 

PETER 

Whenever I hear of deeds that I am unable to imitate, I 
am more inclined to weep than to comment. 

GREGORY 

The account of Paulinas' last days is contained in the 
annals of his church. There we read that his death was 
caused by an inflammation of the side, and that, when he 
died, the room in which he lay shook with an earthquake, 
while the rest of 'the house stood firm. All those present at 
the time were terrified. Such were the signs that accom- 
panied his soul's departure from his body, and the bystanders 
who were privileged to witness it were filled with awe. 

The virtue of Paulinus which I described above was of 
an inner, personal nature. If possible, I would now like to 
consider his external acts of power, his miracles. These are 
well known and were described to me by persons whose 
sanctity confirms my belief in them. 

( 2 ) In the time of the Goths, John, the very saintly Bishop 
of Rome, arrived at Corinth on his way to Emperor Justin. 2 
Finding himself in need of a saddle horse, he made inquiries 
for one. A nobleman who heard of this offered the Pope a 
horse, on condition that it be sent back to him as soon as 
another suitable one could be found to replace it. This 
particular horse was his wife's favorite, it was so gentle. 

2 Pope John I (523-526) was sent to the court of Constantinople by 
King Theodoric to persuade Emperor Justin I (518-527) to modify 
the decree he had enacted against the Arians. Since the mission did 
not produce its desired results, Theodoric had Pope John and his 
companions thrown into prison, where in a short time the Pope 
succumbed to the hardships of his confinement. 



116 SAINT GREGORY 

The Bishop of Rome therefore continued on his way, and, 
as soon as the horse could be replaced, he sent it back to the 
nobleman and his wife. But when the noble lady again wished 
to mount it, she found herself unable to do so, for, after 
carrying this distinguished bishop, the horse refused to carry 
her. It snorted and balked continually as if to indicate openly 
that it could not seat a woman after having seated the holy 
pontiff. Her husband, wisely suspecting this, sent the horse 
back to Pope John with the request that he keep it as his 
own, for in carrying him the horse had been dedicated to 
his personal service. 

Our forefathers also tell us that when John came to 
Constantinople he restored sight to a blind man in the presence 
of an immense throng that had gathered at the gate which 
is called 'the Golden Gate. 3 As he placed his hand on the 
eyes of the man who asked to be cured all darkness was 
lifted from them. 

(3) A short time later the saintly Agapitus, 3 whom by 
the grace of God I had the honor to succeed to the throne of 
Peter here in Rome, was also sent east by the Goths to 
Emperor Justinian on matters of state. While he was passing 
through Greece, an invalid who could neither speak nor 
stand up was brought to him to be cured. When the weeping 
relatives set him down before the man of God, he asked 
them with great concern whether they truly believed it possible 
for the man to be cured. They answered that their confident 
hope in his cure was based on the power of God and the 
authority of Peter. Agapitus turned immediately to prayer, 
and so began the celebration of Mass, offering the holy 
Sacrifice to almighty God. As he left the altar after the Mass 
he took the lame man by the hand and, in the presence of 

3 Pope Agapitus I (535-536) . 



DIALOGUE THREE 117 

a large crowd of onlookers, raised him from the ground till 
he stood erect. When he placed the Lord's Body in his mouth, 
the tongue which had so long been speechless was loosed. All 
those present were struck with wonder and wept for joy. Fear 
and reverence filled their minds, for they saw what a mar- 
velous deed Agapitus had been able to accomplish by the 
power of God through the intercession of St. Peter. 

(4) During the reign of the same Emperor, Bishop Datius 
of Milan, having been exiled for his faith, went to Constan- 
tinople. On his way he stopped at Corinth, where he looked 
for a house suitable to accommodate his entire retinue. After 
a fruitless search he noticed a house some distance away of 
the exact size he needed, and ordered it to be set in readiness. 
But the townspeople told him that he would not be able to 
stay in that house because the Devil had inhabited it for 
many years. In fact, that was the reason why it had been 
standing idle all this time. Datius answered, 'All the more 
reason for us to take up our residence there, since the evil 
spirit haunts it and drives all human occupants away. 5 And 
so, after converting the house into his living quarters, he 
entered it fearlessly to await the onslaught of Satan. 

In the dead of night, when the man of God was sleeping, 
the ancient Enemy of manking began to create a terrible 
din, imitating the roaring of lions, the bleating of sheep, and 
the screaming of mules, as well as the hissing of serpents and 
the squealing of pigs and mice. Awakened by the cries of 
all these animals, Datius got up and with a voice full of 
indignation loudly denounced the evil spirit. 'It serves you 
right, you wretch,' he said. 'You are the one who said, "I 
will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the 
Most High." 4 Because of your pride you have become like 

4 Isa. 14.14. 



118 SAINT GREGORY 

a pig and a mouse. Because you basely wished to imitate 
God, you find yourself now imitating animals as you deserve/ 

Hearing this, the evil spirit blushed, as it were, at his own 
wretchedness. For surely he must have felt ashamed, since 
he did not come back again to make these horrible disturb- 
ances. Because one person of real faith had entered the house, 
the deceitful and treacherous spirit departed, never to return. 
Thereafter, the house was again occupied by the faithful. 

But now I must leave the past to rest in silence and begin 
to tell about our own times. 

(5) Some saintly men well known in the province of 
Apulia testify to the following very popular account of 
Sabinus, Bishop of Canosa. As the story goes, he became 
totally blind in his old age. When Totila, king of the Goths, 
heard that the saintly bishop had the spirit of prophecy, he 
gave no credence to the report but sought an occasion to 
put it to a test. When he reached the neighborhood of Canosa, 
Bishop Sabinus invited him to dinner. In taking their places 
at table, the king refused to recline but sat down instead at 
the bishop's right. The servant came as usual to hand Sabinus 
the cup of wine. On this occasion, however, the king quietly 
reached out and taking the cup from the servant handed it 
on to the bishop with his own royal hands, He did this to 
find out whether through some power of spiritual vision 
Sabinus would be able to tell who was offering him the cup. 
The bishop took it and, though he could not see the one 
who was serving him, said, Long live your hand.' The king 
was embarrassed at the words, yet rejoiced, for, though de- 
tected, he had found what he was looking for in the man 
of God. 

This holy man's life was a model of right living for his 
followers. But as he lived on to an advanced age, his arch- 



DIALOGUE THREE 119 

deacon, an ambitious man, impatient to take over the epis- 
copal see, planned to poison him. For this purpose he offered 
the boy who waited at table a bribe if he would serve the 
bishop wine mixed with poison. The servant agreed, and 
during the next meal offered the holy man a cup of poisoned 
wine. As he was holding it out, the bishop said abruptly, 
'Take the cup you are offering me and taste of it yourself/ 
Terrified at realizing he was discovered, the servant pre- 
ferred to drink the poison and die than await punishment 
for his terrible crime. As he put the cup to his lips, the man 
of God relented. 'Do not drink,' he said, 'but give me the 
cup. I will drink it. And now go and say to him who gave 
it to you: "I, Sabinus, drink the poisoned cup, yet you will 
not become bishop." ' Then, making the sign of the cross, he 
drank the poison without suffering any ill effects. At that 
moment the archdeacon died. Though he was in a different 
place, it seemed as if the poison had passed from the bishop's 
lips into the archdeacon's body. The actual poison had no 
power to kill the one, while the other, by a sentence of the 
eternal Judge, perished by the poison of his own malice. 

PETER 

These are great wonders and most amazing for our times! 
This man's way of life is remarkable, and one who is ac- 
quainted with it need not be surprised at his miracles. 

GREGORY 

(6) I must not omit the story repeated again and again 
by many persons coming to me from the city of Narni. In 
the days of the Goths when Totila, their king, came to Narni, 



120 SAINT GREGORY 

he was met by its bishop, the saintly Cassius. Seeing the 
prelate's face deeply flushed and not knowing that this was 
due to his natural complexion, the king felt contempt for 
him, attributing his ruddy color to habitual drinking. But 
almighty God had a way of showing that a very saintly man 
was being slighted. While the king was still with his men 
in the field around Narni, his sword-bearer was seized by 
the Devil and cruelly tormented in the presence of the whole 
army. He was brought to the man of God while Totila looked 
on. With a prayer and the sign of the cross the saint promptly 
drove out the evil spirit, barring him from ever returning 
again. From that day on, the barbarian king had great esteem 
in his heart for the man of God whom he had despised 
because of a facial blemish. Now that he recognized the great 
powers of a saint, his haughty attitude toward the bishop 
changed. 

(7) As I discuss the lives of these great men, the mem- 
ory of Andrew, Bishop of Fondi, and the wonderful mercy 
God showed him, comes back to me. And I earnestly 
pray that the account of it may influence my readers at 
least to this degree that if they have dedicated their lives to 
chastity they may no longer presume to have women living 
in their homes, for ruin creeps into the mind all the more 
readily when the object desired is present to minister to sinful 
inclinations. Nor is the story I am going to tell fictitious. 
There are almost as many witnesses for it as there are people 
in that place. 

This revered man led a most virtuous life and with priestly 
watchfulness kept himself secure in the stronghold of self- 
control. Yet he was unwilling to dismiss from his episcopal 
residence a holy woman who had served him in the past. 
Being confident of his own and her self-control, he allowed 
her to remain. This gave the ancient Enemy of mankind an 



DIALOGUE THREE 121 

opportunity to introduce tempations to his soul. He began 
by keeping a vivid image of the woman before the bishop's 
imagination in order to lure him on to sinful thoughts. 

One day, a Jew going from Campania to Rome was passing 
along the Appian Way. Evening was coming on when he 
arrived at Fondi. Unable to find lodging for the night, he 
decided to stay in the temple of Apollo which was close at 
hand. Fearing the unholiness of the place, he took the pre- 
caution of fortifying himself with the sign of the cross even 
though he did not have the faith. 

The dreadful solitude of the place disturbed him and he 
was still lying wide-awake at midnight. Suddenly, there 
appeared before his eyes a crowd of evil spirits parading along 
like a guard of honor before some potentate. The master 
spirit himself sat down in the middle of the temple and began 
a formal investigation of each of his followers in order to 
find out how much wickedness each had done. As the spirits 
came up one by one to be tried, they reported what harm 
they had done to virtuous souls. One of them jumping up 
before the assembled crowd proclaimed how he had stirred 
up in the heart of Bishop Andrew a temptation of the flesh 
by haunting him with an image of the religious woman who 
lived in the episcopal residence. The master spirit listened 
with avid ears, believing his gain to be all the greater because 
the soul of a very holy man was sliping down the paths of 
death. His attitude encouraged the spirit on trial to add a 
further detail, by relating how on the previous evening he had 
induced the holy man to give the woman a caressing pat on 
the back. Then the evil spirit, that ancient Enemy of the 
human race, encouraged his minion to complete what he had 
begun and win for himself an outstanding prize in ruining 
this great man. 



122 SAINT GREGORY 

While the Jew, lying there wide-awake, was looking on 
with terror and expectation, the same spirit who directed 
this troop of fawning subjects ordered them to find out who 
it was that dared to lie down in the temple. Going up to 
the Jew and looking sharply at him, they were surprised to 
see him signed with the mystery of the cross. c Woe to us/ 
they said, c woe to us ! An empty vessel signed with the cross.' 
Then the whole troop of evil spirits disappeared. 

Frightened by what he had seen, the Jew got up quickly 
and hurried off to the bishop. He found him in his church 
and immediately calling him aside inquired into the nature 
of the temptation he was suffering. Very much embarrassed, 
the bishop would not confess. So the Jew accused him of 
casting sinful looks on the handmaid of God. The bishop 
still refused to acknowledge his guilt. Then the Jew said: 
"Why do you evade my questions, you who were yesterday 
persuaded to pat that woman on the back?' Now the bishop 
realized that his fault was known, so he humbly confessed 
what he had obstinately refused to admit before. In addition 
to reminding him of his shameful act, the Jew went on to 
disclose the source of his information by relating how he had 
overheard the evil spirits discussing his case at their assembly. 
The bishop fell to his knees in prayer. Within a short time 
he dismissed from his house not only this handmaid of God 
but every woman in his employment. Soon after, he had the 
temple of Apollo turned into a chapel in honor of St. Andrew 
the Apostle. From that time on he was competely free of 
these shameful temptations. The Jew, whose vision and 
rebuke had saved the good man, was in turn brought to 
eternal salvation, for, after receiving instructions in the mys- 
teries of the faith, he was cleansed by the waters of baptism 
and brought into the fold of the Church. In saving his 



DIALOGUE THREE 123 

neighbor this son of Abraham attained his own salvation. 
Through God's providence it so happened that the preserva- 
tion of the one from sin became the occasion for the other's 
conversion. 

PETER 

The deeds you tell move me to fear and hope. 
GREGORY 

That is as it should be. We should always trust in the 
mercy of God and stand in fear of our own infirmity. 
You have heard how a cedar of paradise was severely shaken, 
but not uprooted. Because of our weakness we were filled 
with fear; but again, seeing its steadfastness, we regained 
confidence. 

(8) There was another man of saintly life, Constantius, 
the former Bishop of Aquino, who died recently during the 
reign of my predecessor, Pope John. 5 Many of his close 
acquaintances testify to the fact that he had the spirit of 
prophecy. Of the great number of marvels told about him, 
the following is vouched for by devout and truthful men 
who were present when it happened. On the day of his 
death the people of Aquino gathered round him to weep 
over the pending loss of their loving father. Full of grief 
they asked him, 'Whom shall we have as a father when you 
are gone?' In answer he gave them this prophetic reply: 
'After Constantius you shall have a mule driver and after 
him a fuller. This, too, must you endure, O Aquino!' With 
these words lie breathed his last. 

After his death the pastoral care of Aquino was taken over 

5 Pope John III (561-574) . 



124 SAINT GREGORY 

by Andrew, his deacon, who had been employed as a care- 
taker of post horses on the public highways. When he died, 
Jovinus, at one time a fuller in Aquino, was elevated to be 
its bishop. During his lifetime the inhabitants of the city 
were so reduced in number by the sword of barbarians and 
a fierce pestilence that after his death no one could be 
found to be bishop, nor could he have found a flock over 
which to preside. And so, in fulfillment of God's decree, the 
church at Aquino was left without a shepherd after the death 
of Constantius 3 two successors. 

(9) I must not omit an account that was brought to my 
attention more than two years ago by the saintly Venantius, 
Bishop of Luni. He told me that Frigdianus, Bishop of Lucca, 
a neighboring city, was a man of marvelous spiritual power. 
As evidence he related the story of a most unusual miracle, 
much talked about by the inhabitants of that city. 

The Serchio River, which flows along the walls of Lucca, 
often overflows its banks and, forsaking its natural course, 
floods the adjoining territory, destroying whatever crops there 
are in gardens or fields. The frequent occurrence of this 
catastrophe and the extreme poverty of the inhabitants in- 
duced them to give careful thought to a project for diverting 
the course of the river through other areas. But, no matter 
how much time and effort they spent at the work, the river 
could not be turned from its natural channel. So the man 
of God, Frigdianus, went down to the river with a little hoe 
he had made and knelt down in prayer. Then he traced a 
furrow with his hoe and commanded the river to follow him 
through whatever regions he decided to go. The whole mass 
of water followed the man of God and broke a new channel 
for itself along the furrow marked out by the holy man's 
implement. The old river bed was left completely empty. 



DIALOGUE THREE 125 

After this, there were no more floods to damage the grain 
fields or gardens plots from which the inhabitants gained their 
sustenance. 

(10) Bishop Venantius also told me of a miracle which 
took place in the city of Piacenza. All the details mentioned 
by him are verified by John, a man known for his honesty, 
who was born and raised in that city and is now city prefect 
here at Rome. According to the story, one of the bishops of 
Piacenza, Sabinus by name, was a man possessed of mira- 
culous powers. One day his deacon reported that the Po 
River had overflowed its banks, flooding the church proper- 
ties. Furthermore, all the lands where the people were expect- 
ing to reap a fine harvest were standing under water. Sabinus 
told his deacon to go to the river and say: 'The bishop com- 
mands you to control yourself and return to your channel. 5 
But the deacon laughed scornfully at this command. The 
man of God then called for his secretary and dictated this 
message: 'Sabinus, servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. An 
instruction to the Po River. I command you in the name 
of our Lord Jesus Christ never more to leave your channel, 
never more to devastate the lands belonging to the church.' 

When the message had been written down, he ordered 
his secretary to cast it into the waters of the Po. As soon as 
the document touched the waters the river began to recede 
from the church lands and thereafter never again dared to 
flood the adjacent territory, but remained within its proper 
limits. 

What do we see here, Peter, but the stubborn disobedience 
of man put to shame by the obedience of an unreasoning 
element miraculously carrying out the commands of a saint? 

11) In our times the saintly Cerbonius, Bishop of Popu- 
Ionia, gave strong proof of his sanctity. Always zealous in 



126 SAINT GREGORY 

showing hospitality, he had one day invited to his house a 
few soldiers who were passing through the city. Some bar- 
barian Goths, however, arrived unexpectedly, and Cerbonius 
was forced to hide his guests in order to save them from 
harm. When Totila, the cruel Gothic king, heard of this his 
fierce anger was aroused, and he ordered Cerbonius to be 
brought before him. As it happened, the king had encamped 
with his army in a place eight miles from Populonia called 
Merulis. Here the saintly bishop was condemned to be de- 
voured by wild bears for the entertainment of the "people. 
When the heartless king had taken his seat for the spectacle, 
a great number of people gathered round from all sides. The 
bishop was then led into the open space to be clawed to 
death by a ferocious bear specially chosen for the occasion 
that the king might satisfy his cruel wrath. The bear, driven 
from his den in a state of frenzy, made straight for the 
bishop. But suddenly, losing his ferocity, he bent down in 
humble submission and began to lick the feet and hands of 
the holy man. The hearts of men had been brutal toward 
the bishop, as all could now see, while the brute beast acted 
with a heart almost human. The people who had come to 
watch the bishop die began spontaneously to demonstrate 
their admiration for him with shouts and cheers. The king 
himself was moved to honor the sanctity of the holy bishop. 
Though he had previously refused to honor God by protect- 
ing the saint's life, this encounter with God's judgment dis- 
posed him to imitate the meekness of the bear. Some of 
those who were at the scene are still living and claim that 
they were part of the crowd that witnessed the miracle. 

Venantius, Bishop of Luni, called my attention to another 
miracle performed by this holy man. He had prepared a 
burial place for himself at Populonia in the church over 



DIALOGUE THREE 127 

which he presided. During the Lombard invasion, however, 
accompanied as it was by a general destruction of properties 
in Italy, the saint withdrew to the island of Elba. There a 
serious illness overtook him, and, as death was near, he com- 
manded the attending clergy to bury him in the tomb he 
had prepared at Populonia. But they answered that it was 
quite impossible to bring him to that place because the 
Lombards had taken it over and were infesting every part 
of it. To this Bishop Cerbonius answered: Take me to 
Populonia. Nothing will happen to you. So do not be afraid, 
but hasten to take care of my burial. As soon as you have 
buried me, leave the place with all speed.' 

After the bishop died his body was placed aboard ship to 
be taken to Populonia. On the way across the sea storm 
clouds gathered, and a violent downpour of rain followed. 
Yet not a drop fell on the ship during the entire twelve-mile 
journey from Elba to Populonia, even though the storm raged 
on all sides. Now everyone was convinced that the ship was 
carrying the remains of a very holy man. Arriving safely at 
Populonia, the clergy placed the body of their bishop in the 
tomb. Then, complying with his instructions, they hurried 
back with all speed to the ship. They had no sooner boarded 
it when Grimaret, the cruelest of the Lombards, entered the 
place of burial. His coming at this time shows that the man 
of God had the spirit of prophecy, since he had commanded 
his ministers to hasten with all speed from the scene of burial, 

(12) The miracle of a divided rain, such as I described 
above, appears also in the celebrated life of another bishop. 
An elderly man, a member of the clergy, told me that he 
was a witness to the miracle. There are his words: 'Bishop 
Fulgentius, who presided over the church in Otricoli, had 
found an implacable enemy in Totila, the king of the Goths. 



128 SAINT GREGORY 

When this utterly heartless ruler entered the neighboring 
territory with his army, the bishop took great care to appease 
his anger by sending him gifts, intending thereby, if possible, 
to soften his fury. But at sight of them the king turned away 
in scorn. In an outburst of rage he commanded his men to 
take the bishop into strict custody and hold him for trial. 
These fierce Goths, carrying out the designs of their cruel 
master, seized the bishop and, crowding about him, forced 
him to stand in one spot. They even traced a circle around 
him in the sand across which he was not to set foot. While he 
stood in this narrow circle, exposed to the burning sun and sur- 
rounded by hostile Goths, a severe thunderstorm suddenly 
came up, accompanied by a downpour of rain too violent 
for the captors to endure. Yet not a drop from all this down- 
pour fell within the circle where the man of God, Fulgentius, 
was standing. This fact was immediately reported to the 
Gothic king, with the result that his harsh attitude was 
changed to one of great respect for the bishop he had cruelly 
wished to punish. Almighty God uses lowly instruments to 
direct the force of His miracles against haughty minds. And 
so it is through humble men that the Lord of truth subdues 
those who proudly rise up against the law of heaven. 

(13) Recently, too, Floridus, a bishop of saintly life, related 
a very remarkable miracle. 'Herculanus, 5 he said, 'the Bishop 
of Perugia, who was my guardian, was a very holy man. He 
had been taken out of his monastery to be made bishop. 
During the terrible days of King Totila, the heretic, the 
Gothic army had held the city under continual siege for 
seven years. Many of the citizens had fled because they could 
not endure the peril of famine. The seventh year was coming 
to an end when the army gained entrance to the city. The 
officer in charge of the army sent messengers to the king. 



DIALOGUE THREE 129 

inquiring what he intended to do with the bishop and the 
people. In reply, the king ordered him first to cut a thong 
of skin from the bishop's body, running from head to foot, 
and then to decapitate him. The people of the city were to 
be put to the sword. The officer, therefore, had Herculanus 
brought to the walls of the city and executed. Then, cutting 
a long furrow into the dead body to make it appear that 
a thong of skin had been removed, he cast the remains out- 
side the walls. 

Moved by human compassion, a few of the citizens took 
up the remains and buried them next to the walls, being 
careful to place head and body properly together. The body 
of a child that had been killed during this incident was 
buried there with the bishop. 

Forty days after this brutality, Totila gave orders that all 
the citizens of Perugia should return from their places of 
refuge without any misgivings. Those who had previously 
fled to escape famine accepted the invitation and returned. 
Remembering the saintly life of their bishop, they immediately 
looked for the place where he lay buried, for they wished 
to show him the honor he deserved by interring him in the 
Church of St. Peter the Apostle. 

When they dug away the earth at the burial place, they 
discovered the body of the child in an advanced stage of 
decomposition after these forty days. The body of the bishop, 
however, was as sound as if it had been buried that same 
day. More marvelous still, the head was perfectly joined to 
the body without a sign of the beheading. They turned the 
body over to see whether any marks of the long incision 
remained. Here, too, the body was perfectly intact, as though 
no knife had ever touched it. 



130 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

man, God our Father, can do all these things in us. Why? 
Because we believe in God the Father Almighty. Therefore, 
hold what we have set before you and what we have ex- 
plained as to how God has deigned to give. 



Sermon 214 

( 1 ) In consideration of my own lack of age and training, 
and of my inexperience in this office which I have received, 
and in view of my affection for you, I, who now assist as 
priest at this altar which you will soon approach, should not 
deprive you of the ministry of a sermon. 1 The Apostle says: 
*For if thou confess with thy mouth that Jesus is the Lord, 
and believe in thy heart that God has raised him from the 
dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart a man believes 
unto justice, and with the mouth profession of faith is made 
unto salvation.' 2 The Creed builds up in you what you ought 
to believe and confess in order to be saved. Indeed, these 
truths, which you are about to receive and which should 
be entrusted to your memory and professed in your speech, 
are neither new nor unfamiliar to you, for you are accus- 
tomed to hear them set forth in various ways in the holy 
Scriptures and in sermons delivered in the church. But now 
they are to be handed over to you gathered together, arranged 
in a fixed order, and condensed so that your faith may be 
well grounded and preparation made for your manifesta- 
tion of that faith without taxing your memory. These are 
the truths which you are going to hold in mind assiduously 
and recite from memory. (After this introduction, the whole 
Creed is to be said, without interposing any explanation, in 
this way: 'I believe in God the Father Almighty 9 and the 
other sections which follow, ending with the reminder: 'You 

1 It is thought that this is the first sermon delivered by St. . .ugustine 
after his ordination to the priesthood at Hippo in 391 

2 Rom. 10.9-11. rr 



DIALOGUE THREE 131 

a pretender and imposter who was only making himself a 
public spectacle by praying three days and three nights. Then 
he ran up to the man of God and struck him on the cheek, 
demanding that he leave the church, because such actions 
were bn* a shameful pretence at holiness. 

Just then the avenging spirit seized the sacristan and, cast- 
ing him at the holy man's feet, began to complain in a loud 
voice, 'Isaac is casting me out, Isaac is casting me out.' Isaac 
was a complete stranger at Spoleto, but the evil spirit, by 
loudly acknowledging Isaac's power to expel him, made his 
name known to all. The man of God quickly knelt over the 
body of the afflicted man, and the evil spirit departed. The 
whole city soon heard what had happened in the church. 
Men and women of high and low station came in great 
numbers, outdoing one another in trying to get Isaac to visit 
their homes. Some offered him estates on which to build a 
monastery, others offered money, still others simply wished 
to assist him in whatever way they could. But the man of 
God left Spoleto without accepting any of these offerings. 
A short distance from the city he came upon a secluded 
spot where he built himself a humble dwelling. 

Inspired by his god example to seek eternal life, many 
people flocked to him, dedicating themselves to the service 
of God under his guidance and direction. When these disciples 
continued humbly to insist that for the good of the monastery 
he should accept the gifts that were being offered, he held 
firmly to his purpose, conscientious guardian of poverty that 
he was, and replied, C A monk who seeks possessions here on 
earth is no monk.' He was as cautious to secure his poverty 
against loss as the avaricious are to guard their perishable 
wealth. 

The spirit of prophecy and the great miracles he performed 



132 SAINT GREGORY 

in this place made his life shine like a brilliant light for all 
the people of that area. 

Toward evening one day he bade his monks put a supply 
of iron tools, such as spades and hoes, into the garden and 
return directly. That night, after rising with his monks to 
sing God's praises, he said to them, Go now and cook the 
porridge for our workmen so that it will be ready in the 
morning.' At dawn he had the monks take the porridge and 
proceed with him to the garden. There they found strangers 
busily at work, each using one of the tools that had been 
placed there the evening before. These strangers had all been 
thieves, but now, converted at heart, they were inspired to 
work with the tools they had found. From the time they 
entered the garden until the man of God came to them, they 
had spaded and hoed all the areas that needed cultivation. 
As soon as the man of God stepped into the garden he said, 
'Be of good cheer, my brothers. You have worked hard. 
Take a rest now. 3 With that he set the meal before them, 
bidding them refresh themselves after their exhausting labor. 
When they had satisfied their hunger, he warned them against 
doing any further wrong. 'Whenever you want anything 
from the garden,' he said, 'come to the entrance and quietly 
make your request. You shall receive what you ask, and a 
blessing will accompany you. But do not steal. 3 Without 
further delay he had a generous supply of fresh vegetables 
given to each one. The thieves who had come to the garden 
with evil intent went away clear of guilt, and fully rewarded 
besides for their labor by the good man Isaac. 

At another time, some strangers, ragged and half-naked, 
came to Isaac begging for mercy. The man of God listened 
silently while they pleaded for clothing to cover their naked- 
ness. Summoning one of his disciples, he quietly directed 



DIALOGUE THREE 1 33 

him to go to a certain spot in the woods where he would 
find a hollow tree. 'Examine that tree, 5 he said, 'and bring 
me the clothes you find hidden there. 5 The disciple followed 
the directions and found everything as Isaac said. Taking 
the clothes from the hollow tree, he brought them secretly 
to his master, who showed them to the half-naked strangers. 
'Come,' he said, 'since you are in dire need of clothes, take 
these and put them on. 5 They instantly recognized, to their 
confusion, that these were the clothes they had laid aside. 
Since they had dishonestly begged clothes from others, they 
now got back their own in shame. 

At another time someone who wanted to recommend 
himself to Isaac's prayers sent him two baskets of food. The 
servant who was to deliver them kept one basket for himself, 
hiding it on the way, and brought the other to the man of 
God. 'With this gift,' he said, 'my master is requesting prayers 
for his intention.' The man of God accepted the basket 
graciously and, as he expressed his thanks, also gave the boy 
a warning. 'Be sure,' he said, 'to examine the basket you 
set down by the roadside. Examine it with great caution, 
for a serpent has crawled into it. If you handle it carelessly 
the serpent will strike you! So look out! 5 

The boy blushed uneasily at these words, yet was glad 
to have escaped death. But he could not help feeling down- 
hearted, for even though the rebuke was salutary, it carried 
with it the sting of shame. Returning to the basket, he exam- 
ined it closely but cautiously and found the serpent, just as 
the man of God had said. 

In spite of the fact that the saintly Isaac was endowed to 
a unique degree with the virtue of abstinence, contempt for 
worldly goods, the spirit of prophecy and steadfastness in 
prayer, he had one trait that seemed reprehensible at times 



134 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

one think that I have rashly declared that there was some- 
thing which the Almighty could not do. The blessed Apostle 
likewise says: 'If we are faithless, he who remains faithful 
cannot disown himself.' 5 Because He does not will this He 
cannot do it, inasmuch as He cannot will and not will at 
the same time. For justice cannot wish to do what is unjust; 
wisdom cannot wish what is foolish; truth cannot wish what 
is false. Whence we are reminded that the omnipotent God 
cannot do not only what the Apostle states: 'He cannot dis- 
own -himself,' but many other things as well. Behold, I say 
this and I dare to say it in accordance with His truth, be- 
cause I do not dare to deny that the omnipotent God cannot 
die, cannot be changed, cannot be deceived, cannot be- 
come wretched, cannot be overcome. Far be it that the 
Omnipotent One should be able to do these things and other 
things of this sort. And for that very reason not only does 
truth show that He is omnipotent because He cannot do 
these things, but truth also concludes that he who can do 
such things is not omnipotent. For God exists, willing what- 
ever He is; therefore, He wills to be eternal, unchangeable, 
true, beautiful, and insuperable. If, then, what He does not 
will can exist, He is not omnipotent. But He is omnipotent; 
therefore, whatever He wishes can be. And for that reason 
whatever He does not wish cannot be. Wherefore He is said 
to be omnipotent, since whatever He wishes can a be. Of 
Him the Psalmist says: 'Whatever he hath pleased he hath 
done, in heaven and on earth.' 6 

(5) The omnipotent God, therefore, who hath done all 
things whatsoever He wished, brought forth, not from no- 
thing, but from Himself, His only Word by whom all things 
were made. On that account, He did not make, but gener- 
ated, Him. For 'in the beginning [He] created heaven, and 
earth/ 7 But He did not create the Word in the beginning, 

5 Cf. 2 Tim. 2.13. 

6 CL Ps. 134.6. 

7 Cf. Gen. 1.1. 



DIALOGUE THREE 135 

do not foster pride in their hearts even though they are 
victorious over powerful enemies, for they realize that the 
weakest of adversaries still causes them great weariness. It is 
quite remarkable how one and the same person can be 
vigorous in virtue and weak with infirmity, and while strongly 
fortified on one side see himself laid waste on the other. The 
good, therefore, for which he is striving without success, 
makes him cherish humbly the gifts God has given him. 

Why should we be surprised that this is true of men? 
Heaven itself witnessed the same occurrence, for some of its 
citizens were lost and some stood firm. Seeing one part fall 
through pride, the other, the chosen angels, kept their stand 
more humbly and therefore also more firmly. This loss, then, 
was beneficial for those citizens of heaven whom it helped 
to establish more firmly in their eternal condition. The same 
is true of us individually. A slight loss that safeguards humility 
can at times be of immense profit to a soul. 

PETER 
I agree with what you say. 

GREGORY 

(15) I must not fail to mention what I was told by the 
priest Sanctulus, who comes from the same district. I am 
sure you are well enough acquainted with the honesty of his 
life to put full trust in his words. 

At that time there were two men in Norcia, Eutychius 
and Florentius, who lived a life truly in harmony with their 
monastic profession. Eutychius, filled with spiritual zeal and 
fervor, was very active in converting souls to God by his holy 



136 SAINT GREGORY 

exhortations. Florentius, on the other hand, lived a simple 
life dedicated to prayer. A monastery not far from their 
dwelling had lost its superior through death, and the monks 
now asked Eutychius to preside over them. Consenting to 
their wishes, he took over the direction of the monastery and 
for many years guided the souls of its monks in the pursuit 
of sanctity. In order not to abandon his former house of 
prayer, he had Florentius remain there. 

One day, this saintly man cast himself prostrate on the 
floor of the chapel, begging almighty God to send him some 
consolation in his solitude. After finishing his prayer, he went 
out and found a bear standing in front of the door. The 
animal bowed its head to the ground and by its unusually 
mild and gentle actions let Florentius know that it had come 
to serve him. The man of God was quick to grasp its mean- 
ing. A little flock of four or five sheep had been left there 
and was without shepherd or watchman. So he entrusted it 
to the bear, saying, Go, drive this flock to pasture and return 
again at noon. 5 

The bear listened to his instructions and faithfully carried 
out the role of shepherd entrusted to him. This animal, by 
nature a devourer of sheep, curbed its native appetite and 
pastured them instead. On days when the man of God wished 
to fast, he ordered the bear to return with the sheep at 
midafternoon,, otherwise at noon. All these commands the 
bear carried out faithfully without ever confusing the hours 
by returning at midafternoon instead of noon or vice versa. 

After this marvel had been going for some time, the report 
of it spread throughout the entire region. But, in his envy, 
the ancient Enemy invariably drags evil men to their shame 
through the very deeds that make good men shine with 
glory. The monks of the monastery became envious of Flo- 



DIALOGUE THREE 137 

rentius because he was becoming renewed through this great 
miracle, whereas they could boast of no miracle for their 
master Eutychius. So, one day, four of their number waylaid 
the bear and killed it. 

When the bear did -not return at the usual hour, Florentius 
became suspicious. He waited till sunset, and still there was 
no sign of the bear. What a misfortune! In his great sim- 
plicity he called him 'brother bear.' The next day, going out 
to see what had happened to his sheep and shepherd, he 
found the bear dead. A careful inquiry soon brought to light 
the perpetrators of the wrong. Weeping more because of the 
malice of the monks than over the death of the animal, he 
was brought to Eutychius, who tried to console him. But 
Florentius, distracted with grief, pronounced a curse on the 
monks then and there in the presence of Eutychius. *I hope 
to God,' he exclaimed, that before they die they will be 
punished in the sight of all for killing my bear who never 
did them any harm. 3 

Divine retribution followed quickly. The four monks who 
had killed the bear were struck with leprosy and died a 
horrible death. Overwhelmed with terror at having cursed 
these brethren, Florentius wept for the rest of his life over the 
terrible fulfillment of his imprecations. He accused himself 
of cruelty. e ln their death/ he kept repeating, C I have become 
a murderer.' It may be that almighty God brought this 
about in order to prevent Florentius from ever again pre- 
suming to hurl the weapons of malediction in a state of anger. 

PETER 

Do we really need to consider it a very serious matter if 
in a fit of anger we should happen to curse someone? 



138 SAINT GREGORY 

GREGORY 

Why do you ask me about the gravity of this sin, when 
St. Paul himself says, 'it is not ... the bitter of speech . . . 
that will inherit the kingdom of God. 57 Consider how grave 
it must be if it separates us from the kingdom of heaven. 

PETER 

What if a man, not out of malice, but inadvertently, hurls 
a curse at his neighbor? 

GREGORY 

Even an idle word is condemned by the severity of our 
Judge. Imagine how much more deserving of condemnation 
will be a harmful word prompted by ill will, when an idle 
word, one merely lacking in positive good, is liable to punish- 
ment. 

PETER 

I agree. 

GREGORY 

Florentius performed another deed which should not be 
left unmentioned. After his renown had become known far 
and wide, a deacon came from a great distance to see him, 
eager to recommend himself to his prayers. As he approached 
the saint's dwelling, he noticed that all the surrounding area 
was infested with serpents. In mortal fear he shouted, 'Servant 
of God, pray for me! 5 

The sky was clear when Florentius stepped out of his 

7 1 Cor. 6.10. 



DIALOGUE THREE 139 

hermitage. Raising his eyes and arms to heaven he prayed 
God to remove this pest in whatever way He wished. At his 
voice the heavens suddenly shook with loud crashes of thunder 
that struck all the serpents dead. Seeing their lifeless forms 
lying about, the servant of God said, 'You have destroyed 
them, Lord, but who will now remove them? 3 He had hardly 
finished speaking when a flock of birds came, and as each 
one carried off a serpent, the entire area around this house 
of prayer was soon cleared. 

PETER 

What virtue do we attribute to him, or what merit, that 
God should be so very near to answer his call? 

GREGORY 

Purity of heart and simplicity are most precious in the 
sight of almighty God, who is all pure and simple in nature. 
Set apart from the ways of the world, the servants of God 
are strangers to its vain talk and thus avoid disturbing and 
soiling their minds in idle conversation. Because of this they 
win a hearing from God sooner than others, for by the 
purity and simplicity of their thoughts they resemble God 
to a degree, becoming of one mind with Him as far as that 
is possible. But we who mingle with so many worldly people 
frequently speak useless words and at times even very in- 
jurious ones. And the closer we keep our speech to earth, 
the farther we remove our voice from God. We are drawn 
downward by mingling in continual conversation with men 
of the world. It is with good reason that Isaias, after seeing 
the Lord, the King of hosts, accuses himself of this very 



140 SAINT GREGORY 

fault. In a spirit of repentance he says, c Woe is me, because 
I have held my peace; because I am a man of unclean lips.' 8 
And why are his lips unclean? Because, as he explains im- 
mediately, C I dwell in the midst of a people that has unclean 
lips. 9 Grieving that his own lips are unclean, he shows us 
that he contracted this defilement by living among a people 
that had unclean lips, 

To take part in the talk of worldly men without defiling 
our own heart is all but impossible. If we permit ourselves 
to discuss their affairs with them, we grow accustomed to a 
manner of speech unbecoming to us, and we end clinging 
to it with pleasure and are no longer entirely willing to leave 
it. We enter upon the conversation reluctantly, as a kind of 
condescension, but we find ourselves carried along from idle 
words to harmful ones, from trivial faults to serious guilt, 
with the result that our lips are more defiled with foolish 
words, and our prayers farther and farther removed from 
God's hearing. Just as Scripture says, 'When one turns away 
his ears from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomina- 
tion,' 9 Why should we be surprised, then, if God is slow to 
hear our petitions when we on our part are slow to hear God's 
command or pay no attention whatever to it? It was quite 
natural for Florentius to receive a ready answer to his prayer 
because he was quick to listen to God's law. 

PETER 
What can one say in answer to this clear reasoning? 

8 Isa. 6.5. 

9 Prov. 28.9. 



DIALOGUE THREE 141 

GREGORY 

Eutychius, who had been Florentius' companion on the 
way of perfection, became renowned for his miracles only 
after death. Among the many wonders his townspeople tell 
about him there is the remarkable miracle of the cloak which 
God saw fit to work repeatedly down to these days of Lom- 
bard occupation. Whenever the rains failed and the earth 
was parched by the intense heat of a long drought, the citizens 
would gather together and display the saint's garment before 
God, holding it aloft as they went in a procession of prayer 
through the fields. Invariably, God would send rains to refresh 
the thirsty soil. From this miracle it is clear that Eutychius 
had great hidden virtues and merits, for the public display 
of his cloak turned aside the wrath of God. 

(16) In recent years there was a saintly man by the name 
of Martin, who had lived the life of a hermit for many years 
in a narrow cave on Mount Massico in Campania. Many of 
our people knew him and were witnesses to his miraculous 
deeds. I also heard much about him from Pope Pelagius, 10 
my predecessor of happy memory, and from other God- 
fearing men. 

The first miracle took place in his narrow cave. As soon 
as he made his home there, water began to trickle from the 
rock that formed the cave and flowed in sufficient quantity 
to supply his daily needs, never furnishing too much and 
never failing when needed. Through this miracle almighty 
God showed how carefully He watched over His saint, for 
in imitation of the ancient miracle He provided him in the 
wilderness of his retreat with cool water from a hard rock. 
But the old Enemy of mankind, envying the virtue of the 

10 Pope Pelagius II (578-590) . 



142 SAINT GREGORY 

man of God, devised a scheme for driving him from the 
cave. He took the form of a serpent, long his friend, and 
tried to frighten Martin into abandoning his solitude. The 
serpent began to haunt the cave, remaining there alone with 
the saint, stretching itself in front of him when he prayed 
and lying at his side when he slept. The saint, however, 
completely unafraid, would hold out his hands or his foot 
to the serpent saying, 'Strike, if you have been given leave 
to do so. I will not prevent you/ After three years of such 
attempts, the evil spirit finally gave way before the saint's 
fearlessness. Hissing with a rage, he fled down the steep moun- 
tainside into the ravine below, destroying all the shrubs in 
his path with the flames that shot from the serpent's body. 
In burning the mountainside in his flight, the conquered 
spirit was compelled by God to show what terrible powers 
he actually possessed. Consider, then, my dear Peter, on 
what spiritual heights the man of God stood who for three 
years was unafraid to lie down to sleep with this serpent at 
his side. 

PETER 

I was filled with astonishment as I listened. 
GREGORY 

In the first years of his life as hermit this man decided to 
avoid the sight of women, not that he despised them, but 
because he feared the temptations it might cause. On hearing 
this, a certain woman boldly climbed the mountain and 
impudently made her way to his enclosure. Seeing someone 
approaching from a distance and recognizing a woman's 
clothing, Martin prostrated himself in prayer with his face 



DIALOGUE THREE 143 

to the ground, and remained in that position until the im- 
pudent woman went away, tired of looking in at the window. 
God's displeasure with this unholy attempt of hers to disturb 
the saintly hermit was made manifest to all, for that very 
day in climbing down the mountain the woman met her 
death. 

A spirit of piety and devotion brought many people to 
Martin's cave. The path they had to follow in order to 
reach him was very narrow and ran along a steep cliff. One 
day a little boy, running along carelessly, fell off the cliff 
into the ravine below. The mountain was very high at this 
place, and the huge groves of trees growing in the valley 
appeared like little shrubs as you looked down. Everyone 
was deeply concerned, and a careful search was made to 
recover the body, for all were certain that the poor boy was 
dead. His body could not possibly have remained intact in 
its fall since it would have been shattered on the sharp rocks 
that jutted out from the cliff on every side. But the boy was 
found alive! Not only that he was uninjured. This was 
clear proof that no harm came to the boy because Martin's 
prayers protected him in his fall. 

A large boulder projected from the cliff above the cave. 
Its connection with the cliff proper was very slight, and there 
was constant danger that it would break off and in its fall 
destroy the cave and kill the saintly hermit. Accordingly, 
Mascator, a nephew of the illustrious Armentarius, came with 
a large crowd of country people, asking Martin to leave his 
cave temporarily, for they wished to dislodge the boulder. 
After that he would be able to live in his cave without con- 
stant fear. 

The holy man would not accept their proposal. Instead, 
he told Mascator to do what he could, while he himself retired 



144 SAINT GREGORY 

to the very back of the cave. There was not the slightest 
doubt in anyone's mind that the massive boulder in its fall 
would crush both cave and hermit. The men, therefore, 
tried in every way to remove the dangerous mass of rock 
without imperiling Martin's life. A marvelous thing then 
happened for all to see. As soon as the huge mass was loosened 
by the men, it lunged forward, jumping over Martin's cave 
as if shying away from injuring the man of God, and dis- 
appeared down the hill. Those who believe in God's pro- 
vidential direction of human affairs will also realize that this 
miracle was willed by Him and carried out by His angels. 

When Martin first came to this mountain, before he had 
shut himself up in the cave, he fastened an iron chain to 
his foot and fixed the other end of it into a rock, thus 
removing all possibility of going any farther than the length 
of chain would allow. 

When the saintly Benedict, of whom I spoke previously, 
heard of this, he sent one of his disciples to Martin with this 
message : c lf you are a servant of God you ought to be bound 
by the chain which is Christ and not by a chain of iron.' 
Obedient to this advice, Martin immediately loosed the chain, 
but never again set foot beyond the space to which it had 
confined him. Having now cast the chain aside, he kept 
himself within the narrow circle as strictly as before. 

Afterwards, when he had shut himself up in the cave, he 
began to attract disciples. They lived in a place separate 
from the cave and had to draw water for their daily use 
from a well. But the rope on which the bucket hung broke 
frequently. So the disciples asked Martin for the chain he 
had discarded, and, attaching one end of it to the rope, 
fastened the other end to the bucket. From that time on the 
rope no longer broke, though it was dipped into the water 



DIALOGUE THREE 145 

every day. After touching Martin's chain it acquired the 
durability of iron. 

PETER 

These deeds are delightful because they are miraculous, 
and they have the special attraction of being recent. 

GREGORY 

(17) In our lifetime there was a subdeacon of the church 
at Buxentum by the name of Quadragesimus, who used to 
graze his sheep near Aurelia. This truth-loving man told of 
a remarkable deed very quietly performed. 

In the days when he was tending his sheep In the district 
of Aurelia, there lived on Mount Argentarius a holy man 
wearing the habit of a monk and living a life in harmony 
with his profession. He used to come down from the mountain 
every year to the Church of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, 
in order to visit Quadragesimus and enjoy his hospitality. 

On one occasion, when he entered the subdeacon's hospice 
located near the church, the husband of a poor woman of 
the neighborhood had just died. The body was washed as 
usual, clothed, and covered with a linen cloth, but burial had 
to be postponed because it was now late evening. During 
the night the widow sat near the body of her deceased 
husband, giving way to her grief with weeping and loud 
lamentation. Since she kept up these expressions of sorrow 
and wept without ceasing, the saintly guest was moved to 
compassion and said to Quadragesimus, 'The woman's grief 
touches me. Come, pray a while with me.' 

So they went to the nearby church and prayed. After some 
time the servant of God asked the subdeacon to conclude the 



1 46 SAINT GREGORY 

prayer. Then, after going to the altar to gather dust from 
its base, he proceeded with Quadragesimus to the corpse 
and knelt down to pray at its side. After kneeling there in 
prayer for some time, he did not ask the subdeacon to con- 
clude the prayer as before, but gave the blessing himself and 
got up at once. Still holding the dust from the altar in his 
right hand, he used his left to remove the cloth which covered 
the face of the dead man. When the woman saw this she 
began to object vigorously, for she wondered what he intended 
to do. But he removed the cloth and rubbed the dust from 
the altar over the dead man's face, continuing to do so 
until life gradually returned. Soon the dead man began to 
breathe. Then, opening his eyes, he raised himself to a sitting 
posture and looked around like one waking from a deep 
sleep, greatly surprised at all the commotion about him. 

Seeing her husband alive, the wife, exhausted though she 
was from grief, broke into a fresh display of emotion. Her 
tears now were tears of uncontrolled joy. The man of God 
restrained her outburst with a mild command. 'Calm your- 
self, my dear woman,' he said. 'And if anyone should ask 
you how this happened, tell him simply that the Lord Jesus 
Christ was here doing His work. 5 With these words he left 
his friend's hospice, never again to return. In order to escape 
earthly honors he took the precaution of not being seen again 
by those who had watched him perform this impressive 
miracle. 

PETER 

I do not know what others may think, but for me the 
mightiest of all miracles is that which causes the dead to 
live again by calling their souls back from the world of the 
unseen. 



DIALOGUE THREE 147 

GREGORY 

If we judge from what is visible we cannot conclude other- 
wise. But if we consider the invisible, then it becomes evident 
that to convert a sinner by preaching the word of God to 
him and aiding him with our prayers is a greater miracle 
than raising to life the physically dead. For in the latter 
case the flesh is brought back to life, only to die again; in 
the former, the soul is brought to life for all eternity. 

If I propose two instances of miracles, will you tell me 
which one of them you think exemplifies the more powerful 
miracle? 

Lazarus, whom we believe to have always been a good 
and faithful man, was revived from bodily death. Saul, on 
the other hand, experienced a resurrection of the spirit. After 
Lazarus came back to life, we hear nothing further about 
his virtues, whereas our minds are too weak even to grasp 
all that the Scriptures tell us about the virtues of Paul after 
his soul was raised to life. The dark and cruel thoughts of 
his heart were changed to tender charity; he longed to die 
for the brethren at whose death he had once rejoiced; he, a 
scribe versed in all Scriptural learning, considered that he 
had no other knowledge 'than that of Jesus Christ, and of 
Him as crucified 3 ; he willingly endured being beaten with 
rods for Christ, whom he had persecuted with the sword; 
though he was raised to high honors by his apostolic calling, 
he freely chose to become a little one in the midst of his 
disciples. 11 Even when he was carried up into the third 
heaven, 12 he turned his eyes earthward in sympathy to provide 
for the proper ordering of the marriage bed. 'Let every man/ 

11 Cf. Rom. 9.3; 1 Cor. 2.2; 2 Cor. 11.25; 1 Cor. 15.9; Eph. 3.8: 

12 Cf. 2 Cor. 12.2. 



148 SAINT GREGORY 

he says, 'give his wife what is her due, and every woman do 
the same by her husband. 513 While he was mingling in con- 
templation with hosts of angels, he did not think it beneath 
him to consider the needs of the flesh and make provision 
for it. He rejoiced in infirmities and was well content with 
insults. For him life meant Christ, and death was a prize to 
be won. The real life that he lived here in the flesh was 
beyond the flesh. 14 This was the life of St. Paul, who rose 
from a spiritual lower world to a life of charity. To be raised 
to life from bodily death is, therefore, not of the highest 
importance, unless, perhaps, when this resurrection of the 
body is accompanied by a spiritual resurrection; for then 
the external miracle produces internal life in the one so 
revived. 

PETER 

I had very little esteem for what I now realize is incom- 
parably sublime. Please continue this discussion, so that the 
time at our disposal may not slip by without bringing us 
some edification. 

GREGORY 

(18) A confrere of mine in monastic life, a diligent student 
of the Bible and somewhat older than I, used to instruct me 
in many matters of which I was ignorant. He told me of a 
man named Benedict who lived conscientiously according to 
monastic rule, about forty miles from Rome. He was young 
in years, but his manner of life showed unusual maturity. 
In the days of Totila, some Goths passing that way decided 
to burn him to death in his hermitage. In the process they 

13 1 Cor. 7.3. 

14 Cf. 2 Cor. 12.10; Phil. 1.21; Gal. 2.20. 



DIALOGUE THREE 149 

burned everything around the hut, but the structure itself 
remained untouched. 

Infuriated at this, the Goths dragged Benedict from his 
hut and threw him into an oven nearby, which was being 
heated for baking bread. The next day the holy man was 
found safe and sound. His flesh was untouched by the fire, 
and not even the fringes of his garments were scorched. 

PETER 

I am reminded of the old story of the three youths in the 
fiery furnace. They, too, remained untouched by the flames. 

GREGORY 

That miracle, I believe, is somewhat different There were, 
first of all, three youths, and they were thrown into the fiery 
furnace with their hands and feet tied, and the next day the 
king found them fully dressed walking about in the furnace. 
We see, therefore, that the flames, which had in no way 
damaged their clothes, had destroyed the bonds that tied 
their hands and feet. And so the fire, acting in the service of 
the just, helped them by retaining its natural violence, and at 
the same time, by not retaining it, did them no harm. 

(19) Something very similar occurred in our days, but in 
connection with a different element. In a recent conversa- 
tion with the tribune John, I found out that Count Pronulfus 
was a witness to the occurrence. He says that when he was 
stationed in that region he happened to be present with 
King Autharic at the very time when the miracle took 
place. This is the story as I heard it from the tribune. About 
five years ago, the Tiber here at Rome flooded its banks. 



150 SAINT GREGORY 

Rising above the height of the city walls, it inundated large 
sections of Rome. The Adige River at Verona, too, was in 
a state of flood at this time., and its waters reached the 
Church of St. Zeno, Bishop and Martyr. The doors of the 
church stood open, yet the water did not flow inside, even 
though it continued to rise until finally it reached the windows 
close to the roof. Having mounted to that height, the water 
blocked the doorway completely. It was as if the liquid were 
turned into a solid wall. The large crowd of people in the 
church at the time had no way of getting out, surrounded 
as they were on all sides by a solid mass of water. The 
prospect of death by hunger and thirst began to frighten 
them, but, on going up to the door, they found that they 
could draw water for drinking even though, as I said, it 
stood in a solid mass all around them, as high as the windows 
but without seeping into the church. One could draw from 
it for ordinary use, yet it had lost its ordinary power of flow- 
ing like a liquid. So it stood in front of the church to make 
manifest the power of the holy martyr. It kept its natural 
qualities in order to benefit the people, yet discarded them 
in order not to flood the church. Now you know why I said 
that this miracle was not unlike the ancient miracle of the 
fire which spared the garments of the three youths, but 
destroyed their bonds. 

PETER 

The works of the saints as you relate them are marvelous 
indeed, and this weak generation of ours must stand amazed 
at them. Now that I have heard about these saints of Italy 
and their exceptional virtues,, I would like to know whether 



DIALOGUE THREE 



151 



any of them were tried by the wiles of Satan and, if so, what 
benefit they gained from it. 

GREGORY 

There is no palm of victory without the toil of battle. How 
can one be victorious if one does not fight against the 
treachery of Satan, our enemy? This malicious spirit constantly 
besets our thoughts, words and actions, looking at all times 
for evidence to bring against us on the day of judgment. 
You wish to know how intent he is on leading us astray? 

(20) Some of our own people can vouch for the truth of 
the story I am going to tell you. It concerns the saintly 
Stephen, a priest in the province of Valeria and a relative of 
our Boniface, the deacon and administrator of the church. 
Returning home from a journey one day, he said in a rather 
thoughtless way to his servant, c Gome, you devil, and take 
off my boots. 5 At this command the bootstrings began to 
untie themselves with all speed a clear indication that the 
devil whom he had addressed was there to obey him. Terrified 
at this, the priest shouted in protest, 'Go away, you wretch! 
Leave me I I was not speaking to you, but to my servant.' 

The devil departed at once, leaving the boots almost com- 
pletely unlaced. From this you can judge how intent he is 
on leading our minds astray, since he is so ready to do even 
physical" work. 

PETER 

It must be an exhausting and harrowing experience to 
remain in the front lines of battle, fighting continually 
against an insidious enemy. 



152 SAINT GREGORY 

GREGORY 

It will not be too difficult if we entrust our safe-keeping 
to God's grace and not to our own efforts. But even under 
His divine protection we must continue to be as vigilant as 
possible. Once the Devil has been expelled from the mind, 
it often happens through the working of divine grace that 
his position is reversed. Instead of being feared, he himself 
flees in terror before the virtues of holy souls. 

(21) I arn going to tell you a story for the truth of which 
the saintly old man Eleutherius, whom I mentioned above, 
will be my witness. There was a young woman in Spoleto 
filled with a strong desire to lead the religious life. She was 
of marriageable age, the daughter of a state official. In spite 
of her father's attempts to stop her from entering this way 
of life, she took the religious habit. As a result she was dis- 
inherited, receiving as her sole share half of a small farm. 
Inspired by her example, many other young ladies of the 
upper class turned from a worldly life to serve almighty God 
with her in the holy state of virginity. One day, the saintly 
abbot Eleutherius cam to instruct and encourage her. As 
they sat there speaking about the word of God, a tenant of 
the estate she had received as the portion of her inheritance 
came to her with a gift. Just as he presented himself to them, 
he fell to the ground and under the compulsion of an evil 
spirit began to writhe in pain and bleat noisily. The holy 
nun arose and with an angry look on her face exclaimed, 
'Leave this man, you wretch! Leave him, I say!' The Devil 
answered through the voice of the possessed man, 'And if I 
leave him, into whom shall I enter?' 

A small pig happened to be feeding nearby. So, when the 



DIALOGUE THREE 153 

nun commanded him to enter into it, the evil spirit promptly 
left the man and entered the pig, killed it, and departed. 

PETER 

I would like to know whether she ought to have allowed 
even a pig to come under the control of the evil spirit. 

GREGORY 

The deeds of Christ, who is Truth itself, are the norms 
set up for our conduct. Was it not to Him that the entire 
legion of devils in the possessed man directed their words? 
'If thou hast a mind to cast us out, they said, send us into 
the herd of swine. 315 And Christ, after casting them out, 
allowed them to enter the swine and drive them over the 
precipice. 

From this we know, too, that without God's permission 
the evil spirit has no power against mankind, for he could 
not even have entered into the swine if God had not allowed 
it. We must therefore subject ourselves of our own free will 
to Him to whom all opposing forces must subject themselves 
even against their will. By doing so we become stronger than 
our enemies, for through our humility we become one with 
the Creator of the universe. Is it surprising, then, if God's 
chosen followers perform wonders during their lifetime? Even 
in death it is not uncommon for their bones to be alive with 
miraculous power. 

(22) The following incident, related to me by Abbot Va- 
lentio of happy memory, occurred in Valeria. A pious priest 
of that province was leading a monastic life with his clergy, 

15 Matt. 8.31. 



154 SAINT GREGORY 

intent on good works and the praises of God. The day of 
death overtook him and he was buried in front of the church. 
It so happened that the way to the sheepfold, which was 
nearby, led through the place of his burial. 

One night while the clergy was in church reciting the 
Office, a thief came to the sheepfold and left quickly with 
a stolen sheep on his shoulders. When he was about to pass 
the grave of the saintly priest, he was suddenly rooted to 
the ground, unable to move a foot. Taking the sheep down 
from his shoulders, he wanted to set it free, but was unable 
to do so; his hands would not let go of the sheep. So he 
stood there bewildered, caught with the booty, unable to get 
rid of it or to run off with it. He who had feared detection 
by the living was now, miraculously, held fast by the dead. 
Bound as he was hand and foot, he remained on the spot 
unable to move. 

In the morning, after the praises of God were ended, the 
clergy came out of the church and found this stranger hold- 
ing the sheep. At first sight it was hard to tell whether he 
was taking the sheep or making an offering of it. But the 
culprit could not hide his guilt very long. Amazed that 
through the merits of the saintly man of God the thief should 
stand before them unable to get rid of the booty, they began 
at once to pray and only through fervent prayer were they 
able to obtain his release. After standing there all this time 
forced to hold on to the stolen sheep, the thief could finally 
take his departure, once again free and unburdened. 

PETER 

The graciousness of almighty God toward us becomes 
apparent in these delightful miracles. 



DIALOGUE THREE 155 

GREGORY 

(23) The monastery of St. Gregory, Peter, that home of 
saintly men, stands on a mountain overlooking the city of 
Palestrina. It is from there I got the next story I am going 
to tell. I was still living in my monastery when I first heard 
it and was assured by the monks that they had accurate 
knowledge of the facts. 

By carefully supervising the spiritual development of one 
of his monks, a holy abbot of St. Peter's had led him to a 
high degree of sanctity. Seeing that he had made remarkable 
progress in the fear of God, the abbot had him ordained 
priest for the monastery. Soon after his ordination, however, 
this priest was informed through a revelation that death 
would overtake him in a short time. Going immediately to 
his abbot, he asked leave to prepare a burial place for him- 
self. The abbot granted his request, but added: 'Be assured 
that I going to die before you. However, prepare your grave 
as you requested/ 

The priest did so. A few days later the abbot was over- 
come by a fever. As he was nearing death he turned to the 
priest standing at his side and said, 'Lay my body to rest 
in your grave.' 

The priest objected. 'You know, 3 he said, 'that in a short 
time I, too, will die, and the grave will not hold both our 
bodies.' But the abbot insisted. 'Go, 3 he said, 'and do as I 
directed. The grave will hold both of us.' And so the abbot 
was buried in the priest's grave. 

The priest also took sick shortly after and died. His body 
was taken to the same place for burial. On opening the 
grave, everyone attending the funeral saw that it was 



156 SAINT GREGORY 

impossible to bury the priest in it because the abbot's body, 
already buried there, took up all the space. Seeing this diffi- 
culty, one of the monks who was pallbearer exclaimed, 
'Father Abbot, what of your promise that the grave would 
hold both of you? 5 

At these words the body of the abbot, which lay stretched 
out before them just as it had been laid to rest, turned on 
its side, leaving room for the priest. Thus in the sight of all 
he fulfilled after death the promise he had made while still 
alive. 

This miracle took place in the Monastery of St. Peter the 
Apostle. If you do not mind, I should now like to tell you 
about the sacristans of the church in Palestrina where the 
holy abbot's body lies buried. 

PETER 

Please do. It will be a pleasure to listen. 
GREGORY 

(24) There are still some people in Palestrina who remem- 
ber Theodore, the sacristan of their church. He is the one 
who told me of a remarkable personal experience he had in 
this church. One morning he got up very early to trim the 
lamps at the church door. While he was standing under the 
lamp on the wooden platform regularly used for this purpose, 
St. Peter the Apostle suddenly appeared to him, wearing a 
white garment. As he stood there on the floor below Theo- 
dore, he said, 'Friend, why did you get up so early?' With 
this he vanished from sight. An overpowering fear lay hold 



DIALOGUE THREE 157 

of Theodore, robbing him of all bodily strength and confining 
him to bed for many days, unable to rise. 

With this vision the blessed Apostle wished to assure his 
followers that he was watching over them constantly and 
would always see to it that what they did out of veneration 
for him would be repaid with an eternal reward. 

PETER 

To me the surprising thing is, not that St. Peter became 
visible, but that Theodore, who had been in perfect health, 
became sick at the sight of him. 

GREGORY 

Why are you surprised at this, Peter? Have you forgotten 
the words of the Prophet Daniel, who trembled at the sight 
of his mighty and terrifying vision? C I became weak/ he said, 
'and was sick for some days/ 16 The flesh is overwhelmed by 
the things of the spirit. Sometimes, therefore, when the mind 
is allowed to see beyond its human powers, the body cannot 
but grow weak, because the task imposed is more than it 
can endure. 

PETER 

Your clear explanation has removed the difficulty I had 
in understanding. 

16 Dan. 8.27. 



158 SAINT GREGORY 

GREGORY 

(25) Not so very long ago, as our elders tell us, there was 
a sacristan of this church named Acontius, a man of extra- 
ordinary humility and gravity. His fidelity in the service of 
almighty God was recognized by St. Peter the Apostle, who 
showed by a miracle how highly he esteemed him for it. 

One of the girls in the parish was a paralytic. Since her 
lower limbs were completely paralyzed, she used to creep 
along, supported only by her hands, while her body dragged 
over the ground. For a long time she had been praying to St. 
Peter for a cure. Then, one night, he stood at her side and 
said, 'Go to Acontius the sacristan. Speak to him and he 
will give you back your health. 3 

Putting full faith in this remarkable vision, she made her 
way to the church, dragging herself through different parts 
of it in the hope of finding Acontius. Just then he happened 
to come her way, and she, not knowing him, said, 'Father, 
can you tell me where to find Acontius the sacristan?' f l am 
Acontius, 3 he replied. Eagerly she gave her message. c Our 
shepherd, 5 she said, 'the feeder of our flock, St. Peter the 
Apostle, sent me to you to be cured of this affliction. 3 

'If you have been sent by him,' Acontius answered, 'then 
get up on your feet.' With this he took her by the hand and 
raised her to a standing position. From that moment all the 
nerves and muscles of her body were restored to health and 
all signs of paralysis disappeared completely. 

If I should try to describe all the marvels that happened 
in this one church, I would not be able to tell of the miracles 
that took place in any other church. Therefore I will now 
again take up the modern saints of Italy and give the story 
of their remarkable lives. 



DIALOGUE THREE 159 

(26) Recently, there was a man named Menas, who lived 
the life of a holy solitary in the province of Sarnnmm. He 
was known to many of our people, for he died only about 
ten years ago. I am not going to name any particular person 
as the source of my story, because the witnesses for it are 
nearly as numerous as the people familiar with the province. 

This holy solitary had nothing from which to supply his 
needs except a few beehives. When a Lombard tried to rob 
him even of these, the holy man gave him a sharp rebuke. 
Instantly, the barbarian fell to the ground at the saint's feet, 
violently tormented by the evil spirit. With this miracle the 
name of Menas became as renowned among the barbarians 
as it was among the people of Samnium. Thereafter, no one 
would enter his dwelling except with deep humility. 

Often, bears would come out of the neighboring forest to 
to eat up his beehives. Whenever the holy man saw them 
coming, he would beat them off with a wooden cane he 
used to carry with him. And these ferocious beasts would 
grunt and growl as they fled in terror from the blows of the 
small rod, though ordinarily even swords do not frighten 
them. 

It was his determination not to have anything or look for 
anything in this world. His zeal urged him to stir up the 
hearts of all his kind visitors with a longing for eternal life. 
If as times he noticed faults in some of them, he would not 
fail to rebuke them. But when he used harsh words, he always 
strove to speak from a heart burning with the fire of charity. 

His neighbors and some friends, who lived a considerable 
distance away, had made it a practice to send him offerings 
on certain days of the week to enable him to exercise hospi- 
tality toward his visitors. At one time, a landowner by the 
name of Carterius, overcome by passion, seduced a woman 



160 SAINT GREGORY 

who had vowed her life to God, and then persuaded her 
to enter an illicit marriage with him. When the man of 
God heard of this, he gave him a well-deserved reprimand 
through friends he could trust. Because of a guilty conscience, 
Carterius did not dare visit the man of God, fearing the 
rebukes the saint usually gave wrong-doers. Therefore, he 
arranged to have his usual gifts sent along with the offerings 
made by the rest. In this way he thought Menas would 
receive his donation without knowing it. When all the offer- 
ings were placed before the holy man, he sat down and with- 
out a word began to examine them individually, arranging 
them all neatly in one place, except the gifts of Carterius. 
These he pushed aside with disdain, recognizing them through 
the power of the spirit. Go,' he said, 'and tell Carterius: 
"You have robbed God of His offering, and you send gifts 
to me? I will not accept your gifts because you have robbed 
God of His!" ' The hearts of those present were filled with 
profound dread because of the deep insight with which the 
saint judged men in their absence. 

PETER 

Many of these holy men, I believe, would have accepted 
martyrdom if they had lived in days of persecution. 

GREGORY 

There are two kinds of martyrdom, Peter, one that is secret 
and one that is public. Martyrdom is secret or hidden when- 
ever the soul is eager and ready for suffering even if there is no 
open persecution. The Lord Himself assures us in the Gospel 
that martyrdom is possible without public suffering. For, 



DIALOGUE THREE 161 

when the sons of Zebedee, still weak in understanding, were 
seeking higher honors, Christ said to them, 'Have you strength 
to drink of the cup I am to drink of?' And when they an- 
swered, 'We have/ he said: 'You shall indeed drink of my 
cup; but a place on my right or my left is not mine to give.' 17 
Now the word 'cup' must stand for the 'chalice of suffering.' 
And we all know that of these two disciples James suffered 
a violent death, while John died quietly at a period when 
the Church was enjoying peace. From this we can conclude 
with full assurance that there is a martyrdom without external 
suffering. Was it not St. John who was told that he would 
drink the cup of the Lord, though he did not die as the 
result of a persecution? 

In referring to the saints I mentioned above, men of out- 
standing quality, why should we say that they would have 
been martyrs had they lived during times of persecution? 
Did they not endure the assaults of a hidden enemy? Did 
they not love their enemies in this world? Did they not resist 
every carnal desire? By sacrificing themselves in this way to 
almighty God on the altar of their hearts they became true 
martyrs even in times of peace. In our own days, on the 
other hand, persons of very ordinary and even worldly life, 
about whom I would not have dared entertain much hope 
for eternal glory, have won for themselves the crown of 
martyrdom because the occasion presented itself. 

(27) About fifteen years ago, as we are told by eye-wit- 
nesses of the event, the Lombards held forty of our country 
people prisoners and were trying to compel them to eat meat 
that had been offered to idols. When our people put up a 
firm resistence, refusing to touch the sacrilegious meat, the 
Lombards threatened them with death unless they complied. 

17 Matt. 20.22,23. 



162 SAINT GREGORY 

In spite of this, our people remained true to their faith. They 
chose eternal life in preference to this transitory one and so 
met their death together, all persevering in the faith to the 
end. Without a doubt these were martyrs to the truth, because 
they chose to suffer death by the sword rather then offend 
their Creator by eating of the forbidden meat. 

(28) It was during this same period that the Lombards, 
holding as prisoners some 400 other persons, were performing 
their customary rite of sacrificing the head of a goat to the 
Devil, dedicating it to him by running around, singing sacri- 
legious songs. After bowing in adoration before this idol, they 
tried to compel the prisoners to do the same. But the vast 
majority refused to obey the sacrilegious commands. Rather 
than hold on to this mortal life by adoring the idol, they 
chose the way to life eternal through death. Having always 
bowed their heads in adoration before their Creator, they 
would never do so before a creature. Their captors were 
infuriated at this and in their fury put to the sword all who 
did not take part in the idolatrous worship. 

Now, in the case of those who held to a martyr's difficult 
life in times of peace by continuous acts of self-denial, do we 
have any reason to wonder whether or not they would have 
become martyrs during a persecution? Why should we wonder 
on their account, especially when many win the martyr's 
crown in times of persecution who in peaceful days followed 
the wide and easy paths of this world? 

What I say of heroic souls does not apply to everyone. 
For, as we know, when persecution rages, many undergo 
martyrdom who were far from perfect while the Church 
enjoyed peace, whereas some of those whom we believed to 
stand firm in the previous days of calm fall away through 
fear and weakness. Of those, however, whom we described 



DIALOGUE THREE 1 63 

above, we can confidently say that they would have become 
martyrs; all the more so, since their holy death confirms our 
conclusion. Seeing that they persevered to the very end in 
practicing hidden virtues, we can also be sure that they would 
not have betrayed their faith in times of open persecution. 

PETER 

It is as you say. But I marvel at the dispensations of God's 
mercy toward us, His unworthy creatures. For He keeps a 
check on the fury of the Lombards by not allowing their 
unholy priests, who look upon themselves as directors of our 
people, to attack the faith of the orthodox Christians. 

GREGORY 

(29) This is what they repeatedly tried to do, Peter, but 
some marvel from heaven always opposed them. I will tell 
you about one instance which was described to me three days 
ago by Boniface, a monk of my own monastery. Four years 
ago he was still with the Lombards. Once, one of the Lom- 
bard bishops, an Arian of course, came to Spoleto. Not finding 
a place to celebrate his services, he went to the bishop of the 
city and asked for a church to use for his heretical rites. The 
bishop refused emphatically. The Arian promptly declared 
he would return the very next day and take over the nearby 
Church of St. Paul by force. When the sacristan heard this, 
he rushed quickly to the church, shut all the doors and bolted 
them securely. Toward evening he extinguished all the lamps 
and hid inside the building. 

Early next morning the Arian bishop came with a large 
mob, prepared to break down the doors. Suddenly, some 



164 SAINT GREGORY 

supernatural force shook the doors, sending the bars and 
bolts flying in every direction. With a terrible crash every 
door of the church flew wide open. Then a light streamed 
down from above and relighted all the lamps inside. The 
Arian bishop who had to come to do violence to the church 
was struck blind and had to return home led by the hand. 
When the Lombards stationed in this region heard what 
happened, they did not dare cause any more disturbances 
among Catholics. 

The miracle is noteworthy for the way it took place. The 
lamps in the church had at first been extinguished because 
of the Arian bishop; then, at the very moment light was 
restored to the church, the bishop lost his sight. 

(30) I should also mention the remarkable events that 
occurred in this city two years ago, for they are signs from 
God clearly manifesting His condemnation of the Arian 
heresy. Some of them are based on popular accounts, and 
for others I have the testimony of the priest and the sacristans 
of the Church of St. Paul. 

An Arian church in the section of the city called Subura 
had remained closed until two years ago when it was decided 
to dedicate it to the Catholic faith. The relics to repose there 
were those of St. Sebastian and St. Agatha. We proceeded 
to the church with an immense throng of people, singing 
songs of praise to almighty God. On entering the church 
for the celebration of Mass, the people had to crowd close 
together because of lack of space. Some of those who stood 
outside the sanctuary were disturbed by a pig running back 
and forth through the crowd. Though the people could not 
see the animal, they felt it scurrying over their feet. During 
the general commotion that followed, the pig found its way 
out through the church door. In this way God helped us to 



DIALOGUE THREE 165 

realize that the unclean spirit had departed from the building. 

After Mass we went home. That night, a loud noise was 
heard coming from the top of the church, as of someone run- 
ning back and forth over the roof. The second night, the noise 
became louder and suddenly burst into a terrifying explosion 
as if the entire church had been blasted from its foundation. 
Then peace and quiet returned, never again to be disturbed. 
From the terrible noise we can judge under what overwhelm- 
ing power the Devil was forced to leave the place he had 
so long occupied. 

A few days later a cloud appeared out of a serene sky and 
settled over the altar, shrouding it with a veil of mist and at 
the same time filling the air with a sweet fragrance. An 
atmosphere of awe pervaded the church and kept the people 
standing at the open doors, too stunned to enter. Even the 
priest, with his sacristans and ministers for the Mass, did not 
enter, but remained outside to observe the marvel and enjoy 
the wonderful fragrance. The next day the unlit lamps hang- 
ing in the church were lighted by a fire sent from heaven. It 
happened again a few days later. The sacristan had put out 
the lamps after Mass and had left the church. In a little 
while he re-entered, to find them burning. Thinking he had 
forgotten to extinguish them, he took special care this time 
that not a single lamp should be left burning. Then he went 
out and locked the door. When he came back again after 
three hours, he once more found them burning. It now was 
clear to him that this place had passed from darkness to 
light. 



166 SAINT GREGORY 

PETER 

Even when we are in great distress we can be certain that 
our Creator does not abandon us. These amazing miracles 
are proof of it. 

GREGORY 

Though I had planned to confine myself to the miracles 
of Italy, would you mind if we crossed over to Spain, then 
to Africa and then returned again to Italy? That will allow 
me to describe the full condemnation of the Arian heresy. 

PETER 

I will be glad to accompany you wherever you may choose 
to go. 

GREGORY 

(31) I was told by many people from Spain that King 
Hermangild, the son of Leuvigild, king of the Visigoths, was 
recently converted to the Catholic faith from Arianism 
through the preaching of the saintly Spanish bishop Leander, 
who is very dear to me because of our long-standing friend- 
ship. 

With bribes and threats, Leuvigild, his Arian father, tried 
to make Hermangild return to heresy, but the latter 
replied resolutely that he would never abandon the true faith 
now that he recognized it. Infuriated at this, his father 
deposed him as king and deprived him of everything he 
possessed. But even these harsh measures failed to shake the 
young man's determination. Then he was cast into prison, 



DIALOGUE THREE 167 

his hands and neck bound with chains. In his narrow dun- 
geon he learned to despise his earthly realm and, instead, 
fostered an intense longing for his heavenly kingdom by 
lying on sackcloth, chained though he was, and praying to 
God for strength. With deepened spiritual insight, he could 
now view the passing glory of this world, for his chains had 
taught him to realize that whatever can be taken from us 
has no lasting value. 

Then, in the dead of night before Easter Sunday, the 
father sent an Arian bishop to the prison in the hope that 
Hermangild would receive the sacrilegiously consecrated Com- 
munion from the bishop's hands and so be restored to the 
good graces of his father. But the young man, in his whole- 
hearted dedication to God, rebuked the Arian bishop the mo- 
ment he entered and with words of well-deserved censure re- 
pelled his heretical teaching. Although Hermangild lay physi- 
cally prostrate in heavy chains, his spirit stood secure on the 
mountain stronghold of God. 

When the bishop returned from his unsuccessful mission, 
King Leuvigild fell into a rage and instantly sent his men 
to kill Hermangild. His orders were carried out. The men 
entered the prison and drove an ax into Hermangild' s head. 
In this way the fearless confessor of the faith was slain where 
he lay imprisoned. The murderers indeed had power to take 
away his physical life, but in doing so they robbed him of 
something he held in low esteem. 

His true glory was quickly made known to all by signs 
from heaven. During the quiet hours of the night the singing 
of psalms could be heard around the body of this king and 
martyr a king, in fact, because a martyr. Some even report 
that burning lamps appeared at night. As a result, the faith- 
ful began to show his body the veneration due the remains 



168 SAINT GREGORY 

of a true martyr; and rightly so. His father, an Arian and a 
murderer, came to regret what he had done, yet his regret 
did not bring him salvation. For, while he recognized the 
Catholic faith as the true faith, fear of his own people 
prevented him from accepting it. When he was lying on his 
deathbed, he took care to recommened his son, King Recared, 
who was then living in heresy, to Bishop Leander. Though 
he had been persecuting this bishop relentlessly, he now 
begged him to admonish and advise Recared and do for 
him what he had done for his brother Hermangild. Having 
made this request, he died. 

Soon thereafter, King Recared gave up the heretical ways 
of his father to follow the example of his martyr brother. 
Once converted from Arianism, he strove zealously to lead 
the whole Visigothic race to the true faith, not allowing 
anyone to serve in his kingdom who by his heresy remained 
an enemy to God's kingdom. It is not surprising that he 
became a herald of the faith, for through the merits of his 
martyr brother he obtained help from above to lead many 
souls back to God's fatherly embrace. 

We must realize, however, that this work could not have 
been accomplished if King Hermangild had not died for the 
truth. For, as the Scriptures tell us, C A grain of wheat must 
fall into the ground and die, or else it remains nothing more 
than a grain of wheat; but if it dies, then it yields rich fruit. 518 
This truth, we know, was fulfilled in Christ, our Head, and 
we continue to see it fulfilled in His members. In the case 
of the Visigoths, one died that many might have life. One 
grain died as a faithful witness, and an abundant harvest of 
souls sprang up to embrace the true faith. 

18 John 12.24. 



DIALOGUE THREE 1 69 

PETER 

What astounding miracles for our times! 
GREGORY 

(32) In the days of Emperor Justinian a persecution of 
Catholics broke out in Africa. It was started by the Arian 
Vandals and carried out with relentless cruelty. Several 
bishops who bravely continued to defend the truth were 
brought to trial, and every means was employed to make 
Arians of them. When words and gifts failed, the Vandal 
king though that torture might break their spirits. First, he 
commanded them to keep silent on matters of faith. When 
he found them continuing their attacks on the Arian heresy, 
for they saw that silence might be interpreted as approval, 
he became furious and had their tongues cut out. The incident 
is known to many of our elders. The marvel of it all was 
that, even after this brutal treatment, they continued to speak 
in defense of the truth as naturally as if they still had their 
tongues. 

PETER 

We stand in awe and wonder before these great miracles. 
GREGORY 

In speaking of the Son of God the Scriptures say, 'At the 
beginning of time the Word already was, and God had the 
Word abiding with him and the Word was God/ This is 
followed by a comment on His power, 'It was through him 



170 SAINT GREGORY 

that all things came into being. 319 Why, then, are we surprised 
if the Word which created the tongue can produce speech 
without a tongue? 

PETER 

I am pleased with your explanation. 
GREGORY 

These men, therefore, fled to Constantinople at the time 
as refugees from Africa. While I was at the emperor's court 
as an official representative of the Church, I met an elderly 
bishop who claimed to have heard these tongueless mouths 
speaking and even shouting, 'Look, we have no tongues and 
still we speak clearly.' Those who looked carefully saw that 
they were speaking the truth. Their tongues had been cut 
out, leaving a deep cavity in their throats. Even though they 
had no organ of speech, their words were well formed and 
clear. One of their number, however, lost this miraculous 
gift because of his sins of impurity. This judgment of almighty 
God was most just, for one who does not preserve continence 
of the flesh cannot expect to have the power of speech with- 
out a tongue of flesh. 

We have now said enough in condemnation of the Arian 
heresy and we shall return to the miracles recently performed 
in Italy. 

(33) Eleutherius, whom I mentioned previously, abbot of 
the Monastery of St. Mark the Evangelist adjoining the walls 
of Spoleto, lived with me for a long time in my monastery 
at Rome and died there. His disciples say that he raised a 
dead person to life by the power of his prayer. He was well 

19 John 1.1,3. 



DIALOGUE THREE 171 

known for his simplicity and compunction of heart, and 
undoubtedly through his tears this humble, childlike soul 
obtained many favors from almighty God. 

I will tell you about a miracle of his which I had him 
describe to me in his own simple words. Once while he was 
traveling, evening came on before he could find a lodging 
for the night, so he stopped at a convent. There was a little 
boy in this convent who was troubled every night by an evil 
spirit. So, after welcoming the man of God to their convent, 
the nuns asked him to keep the boy with him that night. He 
agreed, and allowed the boy to rest near him. In the morning 
the nuns asked him with deep concern whether he had done 
anything for the boy. Rather surprised that they should ask, 
he said, 'No. 3 Then they acquainted him with the boy's 
condition, informing him that not a night passed without the 
evil spirit troubling the boy. Would Eleutherius please take 
him along to the monastery because they could no longer bear 
to see him suffer. The man of God agreed to do so. 

The boy remained a long time in the monastery without 
being troubled in the least. Highly pleased at this, the old 
abbot allowed his joy at the boy's healthy condition to exceed 
moderation. 'Brothers,' he said to his monks, 'the Devil had 
his joke with the sisters, but, once he encountered real servants 
of God, he no longer dared to come near this boy.' That 
very instant, hardly waiting for Eleutherius to finish speaking, 
the Devil again took possession of the young boy, tormenting 
him in the presence of all. The sight of it filled the old man's 
heart with grief, and when his monks tried to console him 
he said, 'Upon my word! Not one of you shall taste bread 
today until this boy is snatched out of the Devil's power.' 

He prostrated himself in prayer with all his monks and 
continued praying until the boy was freed from the power 



172 SAINT GREGORY 

of the evil spirit. The cure was complete and the Devil did 
not dare molest him any further. 

PETER 

I suppose it was because he gave way to pride that 
God wanted this miracle to be performed with the help of 
the other monks. 

GREGORY 

That is right. Eleutherius was unable to do it by himself. 
Only by sharing the burden with his monks could he succeed 
in working this miracle. 

A personal experience taught me the extent of his power 
in prayer. Once while I was still living in the monastery, I 
was seriously ill with sharp, throbbing pains in my intestines. 
I felt that death was approaching in a matter of hours because 
of the frequent spasms of intense pain. Doctors call the disease 
by a Greek name, syncope. If my fellow monks had not 
refreshed me at frequent intervals with food, my life would 
have ebbed away completely. Easter Sunday was upon us, 
and when I could not fast on Holy Saturday, a day on which 
even young children fast, I felt worse, more through grief 
than through sickness. But in my sorrow I quickly found a 
solution. I quietly took the man of God with me into chapel 
and begged him to ask almighty God to grant me the strength 
to fast. He agreed. As soon as we entered the chapel, he 
prayed for me as I had humbly requested. After a short, 
sincere and tearful prayer, he again left the chapel. But just 
as I heard him say the blessing at the conclusion of his prayer, 
strength returned to my weakened body, and my mind was 
relieved of all worry over food or sickness. In amazement I 



DIALOGUE THREE 173 

compared the way I now felt with my previous state of 
health. Even when I thought of my illness I did not recognize 
in my body any of the pains I remembered having. And 
when my thoughts were occupied with the care of the monas- 
tery I was entirely unaware of my infirmity. And when I 
did become aware of it again, I wondered whether I had 
not eaten, for I felt very strong. Toward evening, I found 
myself so vigorous I could have prolonged my fast to the 
next day, had I wished to. In this incident I find a personal 
assurance that Eleutherius' other deeds were also true, though 
I was not present to witness them. 

PETER 

You called him a man of unusual compunction. What, 
then, is the power of tears? I should like to know more about 
this subject. And would you also explain the various kinds of 
compunction. 

GREGORY 

(34) There are many types of compunction, because every 
kind of fault causes regret in a repentant soul. For this reason, 
Jeremias, speaking in the name of contrite sinners, says, 'My 
eye has run down with streams of water.' 20 There are two 
main types of compunction, however. The penitent thirsting 
for God feels the compunction of fear at first; later on, he 
experiences the compunction of love. When he considers his 
sins he is overcome with weeping because he fears eternal 
punishment. Then when this fear subsides through prolonged 
sorrow and penance, a feeling of security emerges from an 
assurance of forgiveness, and the soul begins to burn with 

20 Lam. 3.48. 



174 SAINT GREGORY 

a love for heavenly joys. Now the same person, who wept 
out of fear of punishment, sheds abundant tears because his 
entrance into the kingdom of heaven is being delayed. Once 
we envision the choirs of angels, and fix our gaze on the 
company of the saints and the majesty of an endless vision 
of God, the thought of having no part in these joys makes 
us weep more bitterly than the fear of hell and the prospect 
of eternal misery did before. Thus the compunction of fear, 
when perfect, leads the soul to the compunction of love. 

This is beautifully symbolized in one of the historical books 
of the Bible. There we read that Achsa, the daughter of 
Caleb, sighed as she sat on her beast of burden. c And Caleb 
asked her. "What is troubling you?' 5 She answered, "Give me 
an additional gift! Since you have assigned to me land in 
the Negeb, give me also pools of water.' 3 So he gave her 
the upper and the lower pools. 521 

We say that Achsa sat on an ass because her soul presided 
over the irrational movements of her flesh. Just as she begged 
her father with a sigh for pools of water, so must we with 
deep groans obtain from our Creator the grace of tears. 
There are some who have received the gift of speaking out 
openly for justice, of defending the oppressed, of sharing their 
possessions with the needy, of professing their faith ardently, 
who still do not have the grace of tears* These we may say 
received land in the Negeb,' that is, 'southern and dry land,' 
but are completely lacking in 'pools of water. 3 It is of utmost 
importance, however, that those who are zealous for good 
works and devote much time to performing them should also 
weep over their past sins, either through fear of eternal 
punishment or through longing for God's kingdom. 

Caleb gave Achsa the upper and lower pools. These cor- 

21 Josue 15.18,19. 



DIALOGUE THREE 1 75 

respond to the two kinds of compunction. The soul receives 
the upper pools when it weeps because of its longing for 
heaven; it receives the lower pools when the fear of hell 
causes it to break forth in tears. Actually, the lower pools 
are given first; then, only, the upper. Yet, since the compunc- 
tion of love is greater in dignity, the upper pools were neces- 
sarily mentioned first and then the lower. 

PETER 

A satisfying explanation. Now that you have told us about 
the virtuous life and miracles of the saintly Eleutherius, I 
should like to ask whether one can expect to find other saints 
of the same stature in the world today. 

GREGORY 

(35) Floridus, Bishop of Ferentino, was a man devoted 
to truth and holiness, as you well know. It was from him 
that I heard about Amantius, one of his priests, a man out- 
standing for his simplicity and endowed with the power of 
working miracles. Following the example of the Apostles, he 
would lay his hands on the sick and restore them to health. 
Even the severest sickness disappeared at the touch of his 
hand. Another miraculous power, too, is ascribed to him. 
Whenever he came upon serpents, he killed them with the 
sign of the cross, no matter where he found them or how 
vicious they were. For by the power of the cross which 
Amantius traced over them with his hand, the snakes would 
burst open and die immediately. Sometimes they tried to 
escape by crawling into their holes, but when the man of 



176 SAINT GREGORY 

God made the sign of the cross over the entrance to their 
hiding places, the serpents could be dragged out dead. 

I expressed my wish to know the man with these remarkable 
powers and after he was introduced to me I invited him to 
spend a few days in one of our hospitals. If he had the grace 
of healing, it could quickly be verified there. 

Among the patients there was one who had lost his mind, 
a phrenetic, to use the Greek medical term. One night this 
poor man shouted crazily at the top of his voice, disturbing 
all the other patients with his clamor and keeping them 
awake all night. The sad consequences was that because of 
this one individual all the other patients grew worse. 

I heard the complete details of the story later, first from 
the saintly Bishop Floridus, who had remained with the priest 
Amantius at this home for the sick, and later from the young 
man who was in charge of the patients that night. According 
to them, Amantius got up during the night and, going quietly 
to the bed of the mental patient, imposed his hands on him 
in prayer. The sick man's condition improved immediately* 
So Amantius led him to the chapel in an upper story of the 
building where he could pray for him without being disturbed. 
In a short time the phrenetic returned to his bed completely 
cured. After that he no longer disturbed the others with his 
shouting, nor aggravated their condition, for he had gained 
perfect control of all his mental faculties. From this one 
miracle we learned to put our faith in everything we heard 
about Amantius. 

PETER 

It is very edifying to see men working such miracles, for 
we gain a glimpse of the heavenly Jerusalem in its citizens 
here on earth. 



DIALOGUE THREE 1 77 

GREGORY 

(36) I must not forget to mention the miracle with which 
almighty God favored His servant Maximian, now Bishop of 
Syracuse, but at that time abbot of my monastery in Rome. 
When I was at the royal court of Constantinople as papal 
nuncio, Maximian and his monks came to pay me a friendly 
visit. On the way back to Rome they encountered a terrible 
storm on the Adriatic. The unexplainable chain of events 
and the unusual miracle that followed made it clear to him 
and all those aboard ship that God was manifesting both 
His wrath and His good pleasure. The waves rose high in 
the fierce gale, threatening them with destruction. The mast 
was torn from the deck, the sails were cast into the sea, and 
the ship loosened in all its joints by the terrible violence of 
the waves dashing against its sides. Water poured in through 
all the broken seams and flooded the ship even to its upper 
deck, making it appear that the sea was in the ship instead 
of the ship on the sea. The passengers were terrified, for 
death was not just approaching, it was actually upon them. 
After giving each other the kiss of peace, they received the 
Body and Blood of our Redeemer and recommended them- 
selves individually to God, begging Him in His goodness to 
receive their souls since it was He who had delivered their 
bodies to this dreadful death. 

But almighty God, who had terrified them with a marvel 
of His power, amazed them with a greater marvel in saving 
them. Though the ship was filled with water as high as the 
deck, it continued to float on its course for eight days, and 
on the ninth day it reached the port of Cotrone. All those 
on board disembarked safely, Maximian being the last. As 
soon as he stepped off the ship, it sank to the bottom of the 



178 SAINT GREGORY 

harbor. Instead of removing a heavy burden, their disembark- 
ing seemed to take away the ship's bouyancy. While it carried 
Maximian and his monks it could carry its load of water 
and continue sailing. Without these passengers it lost that 
power. By this God wished to teach us that He sustained 
the ship with His own hand, for, once the men were removed 
from it, it could no longer float. 

(37) About forty days ago, when I was visited by the 
saintly priest Sanctulus, whom I mentioned previously, you 
had an opportunity of seeing him. In fact, he comes every 
year from Norcia to spend a few days with me. Three days 
ago a monk from Norcia came with the sad news that Sanc- 
tulus had died. Although I cannot recall the charming char- 
acter of this man without some pangs of grief, it will be a 
pleasure for me to describe his virtues as they were made 
known to me by priests of his neighborhood, all of them men 
of simplicity and genuine honesty. It is natural that between 
friends the familiarity springing from mutual affection should 
give rise to greater boldness. Sanctulus, too, urged on by his 
own graciousness, disclosed to me a few of the miracles he 
had performed. 

Once when the Lombards were working their olive presses 
during the olive harvest, Sanctulus came to them with an. 
empty skin to get some oil. He was a man of pleasant disposi- 
tion and cheerful countenance, and, after greeting them in 
his friendly and jovial way, he set out the empty skin and 
ordered them to fill it, without bothering to ask for the oil. 
Now, the pagans had worked all day long without success, 
for, try as they would, they could press no oil from the 
olives. And so they were annoyed at Sanctulus 3 words and 
started to shout abuse at him. Yet his smiling cheerfulness 
was in no way changed, and he spoke to them again. e ls 



DIALOGUE THREE 1 79 

this your prayer for me? 5 he asked. 'Come, fill this skin up 
for Sanctulus and he will leave you/ 

Seeing that no oil was coming from the press, and that 
the man of God still insisted, the Lombards became furious 
and heaped fresh abuse and insults on him. Sanctulus, too, 
noticed that there was not even a trickle of oil. So he asked 
for a bucket of water, blessed it, and with all eyes fixed on 
him, poured it into the press. After this blessing, the oil began 
to pour out in great abundance. The Lombards, who had 
worked in vain before, now had enough oil to fill their own 
containers as well as that of Sanctulus. Their hearts were 
filled with gratitude because the holy man who had come 
to them begging for oil was now, through his blessing, sup- 
plying in great abundance what he himself had come to find. 

At another time the people were suffering severely from 
famine. The Church of St. Lawrence the Martyr had been 
burned down by the Lombards, and, since the man of God 
wished to restore it, he hired a great number of craftsmen 
and other workers. All these had to be supplied with rations 
every day, and there was no putting it off. But because of 
the famine there was no bread. The workmen, in need of 
strength to continue their work, clamored for food. Hearing 
of this, the man of God went out to console them with a 
promise to take care of their needs, all the while feeling deep 
anxiety, for he had no way of supplying the bread he had 
promised. As he was going from one place to another, he 
came upon an oven in which the women of the neighborhood 
had baked bread the day before. Bending down, he looked 
to see whether any bread was left there. To his surprise he 
found a huge loaf of bread, unusually white. He took it out, 
but would not give it to the workers, fearing that, if it 
belonged to someone else, he would be doing wrong in trying 



180 SAINT GREGORY 

to be charitable. To assure himself that it did not belong to 
one of the women, he went to all the neighboring houses and 
showed it to each one of them. Without exception, they 
assured him that it did not belong to them, for each had 
taken her full number of loaves from the oven. 

Happy with this information, the man of God brought 
the loaf back to the workmen, asking them to thank God 
for miraculously supplying them with bread. With this, he 
invited them to eat of the bread he was setting before them. 
When they had all taken their fill, the fragments were 
gathered up. They amounted to more than the original loaf. 
The next day these fragments were served to the workers, 
and again the leftovers were gathered. Once more it was 
found that these were more abundant than those originally 
served. For ten days all the craftsmen and other workers 
were fed from this one loaf of bread. Though they ate of it 
every day, there was always enough left for the next day. It 
was as if at each meal the food multiplied and the fragments 
of bread increased in number by being eaten. Each meal thus 
seemed to be a multiplication of bread. 

PETER 

A tremendous miracle and a remarkable imitation of our 
Lord's example. 

GREGORY 

In this case, Peter, it was through His servant that Christ 
fed a large crowd with one loaf of bread. He himself had 
personally satisfied 5,000 men with five loaves. He continues 
even today to multiply a few kernels of grain into a bountiful 
harvest. And He who makes the seed spring up from the 



DIALOGUE THREE 181 

ground is the same One who created everything out of no- 
thing. 

But to keep you from spending too much time admiring 
the external miracles Sanctulus performed through God's 
power,, I should like you to see how great that same power 
made him interiorly. 

One day, toward evening, as the Lombards were planning 
to kill a deacon whom they held prisoner, the man of God, 
Sanctulus, came to them, pleading for the deacon's life and 
freedom. His request received no consideration whatever. 
Seeing that they were making final plans for the deacon's 
death, Sanctulus asked that he be given into his custody. 
Their answer came promptly. 'We shall do as you ask/ they 
said, c but on this condition, that, if he escapes, you shall 
die in his place. 3 The man of God gladly accepted this con- 
dition and took the responsibilty of guarding the deacon. 

At midnight, while all the Lombards were sound asleep, 
he woke the deacon. 'Rise quickly,' he said, 'and flee. Al- 
mighty God grants you your freedom!' The deacon, remem- 
bering the promise made, answered, 'I cannot run away, 
Father, for, if I escape, you will surely die.' But Sanctulus 
urged him on. 'Rise and go!' he said. 'May God deliver 
you out of all danger. I am in His hands. They can do to 
me only what He allows. 3 

So the deacon made his escape and Sanctulus remained 
behind like a surety betrayed. In the morning the Lombards 
came to get the deacon whom they had entrusted to the man 
of God. When they were told that he had escaped, they said, 
'You know very well what the agreement was.' 'I do,* 
answered Sanctulus undisturbed. 'You are a good man,' they 
continued, 'and we do not like to see you die a painful death. 
Choose the manner of death you prefer.' To this the man of 



182 SAINT GREGORY 

God said, I am in the hands of God. Kill me in whatever 
way God shall allow you to kill me.' The Lombards decided 
unanimously to behead him, for in this way he would end 
his life quickly without much pain. 

Once it became known that Sanctulus was to die, all the 
Lombards of that district gathered together, for he was held 
in high honor by them for his sanctity. But, as they are a 
cruel people, they came together in throngs, happy at the 
prospect of witnessing an execution. The man of God was 
led forth. Then from among all their strong men one was 
chosen who would be the surest to sever the head from the 
body with a single stroke. 

The holy man, surrounded by armed soldiers, resorted at 
once to his own weapons by asking that he be granted a few 
moments for prayer. The request was granted, and Sanctulus 
fell prostrate in prayer. After he had been praying for some 
time, the barbarian chosen to be his executioner pushed him 
with the tip of his boot, signaling him to rise. 'Get up,' he 
said. 'Now kneel down and hold out your neck. 5 The man 
of God did as he was told. When he saw the sword drawn 
from its scabbard, he is said to have exclaimed, 'St. John, 
take hold of it!' The executioner raised the sword high for 
a mighty stroke, but he could not bring it down, for suddenly 
his arm stiffened and the sword remained where it was, 
raised aloft to the sky. 

The entire gathering of Lombards changed its mood. All 
had come to witness the execution of Sanctulus, but now, in 
their admiration for him, they began to sing his praises. They 
held him in respect, for it was clear hi their minds that one 
who could stay the sword of the executioner in mid-air must 
be a man of extraordinary sanctity. They asked him to get 
up, and he rose. Then they asked him to heal the executioner's 



DIALOGUE THREE 183 

arm. He refused, saying, C I will not pray for him unless he 
first takes an oath not to kill another Christian with that 
arm.' The Lombard, who had obviously lost the use of his 
arm as a punishment for raising it against God, had no 
choice but to swear never again to kill a Christian. Only 
then did the man of God command him to put down his 
arm. He did so, and was immediately ordered to put his 
sword back in its sheath. 

Recognizing the exceptional powers of this man, all the 
Lombards wished to offer him presents of the cattle and 
sheep they had stolen. But Sanctulus refused to accept such 
gifts and asked instead for a worthy reward. 'If you wish to 
give me anything,' he said, 'give me all the prisoners you 
have in your power. Then I will have a good reason to pray 
for you. 3 His request was granted. All the prisoners were 
told to go with him to their freedom. Thus by God's gracious 
arrangement many were freed from death because one man 
had offered to give his life for the safety of another. 

PETER 

What a marvel of grace. Though I have heard this account 
from others, I admit that, every time I hear it, it sounds new. 

GREGORY 

In this miracle you need not marvel at any power in 
Sanctulus himself. But realize, if you can, what spirit it was 
that possessed his simple mind and raised him to those heights 
of virtue. Where must his soul have been when he made 
that firm decision to die for his neighbor, when he disregarded 
his own life for the life of a brother, when he held out his 



184 SAINT GREGORY 

neck for the sword ! What strong love possessed that heart to 
make it face death unflinchingly for the safety of one 
neighbor! We know for certain that Sanctulus was not well 
versed in literary studies, nor did he know the precepts of 
the Law. But, because c love of neighbor . . . fulfills all the 
demands of the law/ 22 he kept the law in its entirely by his 
love of God and neighbor. Knowledge that he did not receive 
through formal study became a living force within him 
through love. Sanctulus may never have read what St. John 
the Apostle said regarding our Redeemer, namely, that He 
'proved his love to us by laying down his life for our sakes; 
we too must be ready to lay down our lives for the sake of 
our brethren. 523 He had a practical rather than theoretical 
knowledge of this precept of the Apostle. Let us compare, if 
you will, his wise ignorance with our unwise learning; our 
learning lies low, whereas his wisdom rises high. We speak 
of virtue while we are devoid of it ourselves; we take our 
stand in the midst of fruit-bearing trees to enjoy their pleasant 
fragrance, but we do not eat of their fruit. He on the con- 
trary, knew how to gather the fruits of virtue, though he 
may not have sensed the sweetness they exhaled through the 
written word. 

PETER 

Why is it, do you think, that good people are usually taken 
from us, and those who might be an inspiration to many by 
their good lives are extremely rare or cannot be found at all? 

22 Rom. 13.10. 

23 1 John 3.16. 



DIALOGUE THREE 185 

GREGORY 

The malice remaining in the world deserves no better than 
to have those who could be of profit quickly taken away. It 
is to spare the elect the sight of worse evils that they are 
removed when the end of time approaches. With this in mind 
the Prophet says, 'The just perishes and no man lays it to 
heart, and men of mercy are taken away, because there is 
none that understands. 524 And in another place the Bible 
tells us, 'Open that they may go forth that shall tread her 
down: take the stones out of the way/ 25 And, according to 
Solomon's words, there is c a time to scatter stones, and a 
time to gather them.' 26 Because the end of the world presses 
upon us, it is necessary to gather living stones for the heavenly 
building, in order to make our Jerusalem grow to its full 
stature. It is not our belief, however, that all the elect are 
taken out of this world, leaving only the perverse to continue 
on, for sinners would never turn to sorrow and repentance 
if there were no good examples to motivate them. 

PETER 

It is unreasonable for me to keep on complaining about 
the death of the good, when I see that sinners, too, die in 
great numbers. 

GREGORY 

(38) You should not be surprised at this, Peter, for you 
were well acquainted with Redemptus, Bishop of Ferentino, 

24 Isa. 57.1. 

25 Jer. 50.26. 

26 Eccle. 3.5. 



186 SAINT GREGORY 

a saintly man who died about seven years ago. He was a 
cherished friend of mine while I was still in the monastery. 
At my request, therefore, he told me of what he had learned 
about the end of the world during the reign of my predecessor, 
John the Younger, 27 from facts that were well known far 
and wide. While he was making a visitation of his parishes, 
it happened that one day, toward, evening he came to the 
Church of St. Juticus the Martyr. Being tired after a 
strenuous day, he asked for a bed near the martyr's burial 
place, because he wished to rest there. At midnight, as he 
told me, he was lying there, unable to sleep, yet not fully 
awake. In this semi-conscious state, accompanied as it usually 
is by a mental heaviness and a sense of oppression, he suddenly 
beheld the blessed martyr Juticus standing before him and 
saying, 'Redemptus, are you awake?' He answered that he 
was. The vision continued, 'The end of all flesh has come!' 
And it repeated, The end of all flesh has come! The end 
of all flesh has come!' After this threefold warning, the 
vision disappeared. Rising quickly, Redemptus poured out 
his grief in prayers to God. Terrible signs in the heavens 
followed. In the north appeared the gleaming spears of an 
army in battle array. 

It was not long after this vision that wild hordes of Lom- 
bards unleashed from their own native land descended on 
us. The population of Italy, which had grown vast, like a 
rich harvest of grain, was cut down to wither away. Cities 
were sacked, fortifications overthrown, churches burned, mon- 
asteries and cloisters destroyed. Farms were abandoned, and 
the countryside, uncultivated, became a wilderness. The land 
was no longer occupied by its owners, and wild beasts roamed 
the fields where so many people had once made their homes. 

27 Pope John III. 



DIALOGUE THREE 187 

I do not know what is happening elsewhere, but in this land 
of ours the world is not merely announcing its end, it is 
pointing directly to it. Our seeking after the things of heaven 
must, therefore, be all the more urgent, since we know that 
the things of earth are quickly slipping from our grasp. It 
would have been our duty to despise the world even if it had 
smiled on us, delighting our souls with prosperity. But now, 
struck as it is with countless scourges, worn out with adversity 
and daily lamenting its woes, what other message does it din 
into our ears but that we should cease loving it? 

There were many other miracles that might have been 
included among the lives of the saints, but I leave them to 
silence and hurry on to other matters. 

PETER 

Considering how many there are within the fold of the 
Church who doubt the existence of the soul after death, I 
am urged to beg you for proofs from reason showing that 
the soul will continue to live on forever. And if any examples 
from the lives of the saints come to your niind, use them to 
illustrate your explanations. Such a procedure will remove 
doubts from the minds of many and will at the same time 
be a source of edification. 

GREGORY 

That is a very difficult task, especially for one whose mind 
is busy attending* to many other affairs. But if some will find 
it profitable, I will gladly set aside my own wishes in order 
to help my neighbor. Therefore, with God's help, I will 
demonstrate in a fourth book, to the best of my ability, the 
truth that the soul will continue to live on after death. 




BOOK FOUR 



1 FTER ADAM, the father of the human race, was driven 
from the joys of paradise as a result of sin, he entered 
upon the distress of this dark exile we are now 
suffering. Driven outside of himself by his sinful act, he was 
no longer able to perceive the joys of heaven which had 
been the object of his contemplation before. In paradise he 
habitually enjoyed converse with God and in purity of heart 
and loftiness of vision mingled with holy, angelic spirits. After 
falling from that noble state he also lost the inner light which 
enlightened his mind. Born as we are of his flesh into the 
darkness of this exile, we hear, of course, that there is a 
heavenly country, that angels are its citizens, and that the 
spirits of the just live in company with them; but being carnal 
men without any experimental knowledge of the invisible, we 
wonder about the existence of anything we cannot see with 
our bodily eyes. Adam could not possibly have entertained 
such doubts, for, although he was excluded from the happiness 
of paradise, he remembered what he had lost, because he 
had once known it. Carnal men, on the other hand, cannot 
remember or appreciate these joys when they hear about 

189 



190 SAINT GREGORY 

them, because, unlike him, they have no past experience to 
fall back on. 

Take the case of an expectant mother cast into a dungeon 
where she gives birth to a son. He stays there with her and 
grows up in the darkness. Suppose this boy's mother described 
to him the sun, the moon, and the stars, the mountains and 
fields, birds flying in the air and horses running in the fields. 
Born and raised in the dungeon, knowing only the perpetual 
darkness around him, he would doubt whether the things he 
heard his mother describe actually existed, since he had no 
experience of them. So it is with men born into the darkness 
of this earthly exile. They hear about lofty and invisible 
things, but hesitate to believe in them, because they know 
only the lowly, visible things of earth into which they were 
born. It was for this reason that the Creator of the visible 
and invisible worlds came as the Only-begotten of the Father 
to redeem the human race and to send the Holy Spirit into 
our hearts. From Him we were to receive new life in order 
to believe those truths of which we as yet had no knowledge 
through experience. All of us, therefore, who have received 
this Spirit as the pledge of our inheritance are no longer in 
doubt about the existence of invisible beings. On the other 
hand, anyone who is not yet solidly grounded in this faith 
ought to accept what his elders say, putting his trust in them, 
since they have experimental knowledge of the invisible world 
through the Holy Spirit. In our story, too, it would have 
been foolish for the little boy to think his mother was telling 
him lies about the light, merely because he himself knew 
nothing but the darkness of the dungeon. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 191 

PETER 

I am very pleased with what you say. But one who does 
not believe in the unseen is an unbeliever pure and simple, 
and such a one does not look to faith in his doubts, but to 
reason. 

GREGORY 

(2) I venture to say that not even an unbeliever lives 
without faith, for, if I should ask him who his father and 
mother were, he would immediately point them out to me. 
And if I should ask whether he knew them at the time he was 
conceived or saw them at the time he was born, he would 
admit that he had neither known nor seen them at those times. 
Yet he believes firmly, for he maintains without any doubt 
that this man and this woman are his father and mother. 

PETER 

I confess that up to now I did not think an unbeliever 
had faith. 

GREGORY 

Unbelievers do have faith, but, unfortunately, not in God. 
If they had faith in Him, they would not be unbelievers. 
Hence, they must be shaken out of their unbelief and invited 
to accept the true faith. If in regard to their own physical 
existence they accept as facts events they never saw, why do 
they refuse to believe in an invisible world on the ground 
that it cannot be seen by the human eye? It is evident from 
reason I mean reason joined to faith that the soul lives 
on after the death of the body. 



192 SAINT GREGORY 

(3) Almighty God created three kinds of living spirits: 
one that is not clothed with flesh ; another that is clothed with 
flesh but does not die with the flesh; and a third that is 
clothed with flesh and perishes with it. The spirit which is 
not clothed with flesh is that of the angels. The spirit clothed 
in flesh, but not destined to die with it, is the human spirit. 
The spirit that is clothed in the flesh and dies with the flesh 
is the spirit of all beasts and brute animals. Now, since man 
was created midway between angels and beasts, to be lower 
than the one and higher than the other, he has something 
in common both with the highest and with the lowest. His 
spirit shares immortality with the angels, and with animals 
he is doomed to a bodily death, until the day when a glorious 
resurrection will swallow up mortality and the flesh will cling 
once again to the spirit to be preserved by it for all eternity, 
even as the spirit itself is preserved in God by clinging to 
Him. Not even in the punishment of the reprobate does the 
flesh waste away to complete nothingness ; it continues, rather, 
to waste away without ever ceasing to exist. Those, therefore, 
who have sinned through the spirit and the flesh will continue 
to live, only to experience an eternal dying in body and soul. 

PETER 

All that you say delights the minds of those who have the 
faith. But, in making your clear-cut distinction between the 
spirit of man and of animals, how do you explain the words 
of Solomon? C I said to myself:' he writes, 'As for the children 
of men, it is God's way of testing them and of showing that 
they are in themselves like beasts. For the lot of man and of 
beast is one lot.' And continuing with the same thought he 



DIALOGUE FOUR 193 

says, The one dies as well as the other. Both have the same 
life-breath, and man has no advantage over the beast. 5 To 
these words he adds the general statement, 'But all is vanity. 
Both go to the same, place; both were made from the dust, 
and to the dust they return.' 1 

GREGORY 

(4) Solomon's book in which these words apear is called 
Ecclesiastes. Translated, this name means c a preacher.' Now, 
in preaching one expresses sentiments that tend to quiet a 
noisy crowd. And when there are many people holding 
opinions of various kinds, they are brought into harmony 
by the reasoning of the speaker. This book, then, is called 
"the preacher' because in it Solomon makes the feelings of 
the disorganized people his own in order to search into and 
give expression to the thoughts that come to their untutored 
minds perhaps by the way of temptation. For the sentiments 
he expresses in his search are as varied as the individuals 
he impersonates. But, like a true preacher, he stretches out 
his arms at the end of his address and calms the troubled 
spirits of the assembled people, calling them back to one way 
of thinking. This we see him do at the close of the book, 
where he says, 'Let us all hear together the conclusion of 
the discourse. Fear God and keep His commandments: for 
this is man's all.' 2 If he did not impersonate many individuals 
in his manner of speaking, why did he urge all of them to 
listen together to the conclusion of his discourse? When at 
the end of the book he says, Let us all hear together,' he 
is his own witness that he was speaking for many persons 

1 Eccle. 3.18-20. 

2 Eccle. 12.13 (Douay) . 



194 SAINT GREGORY 

and not for himself alone. Therefore, we find that some 
statements of this book are introduced as inquires, while 
others are meant to give satisfaction by their logic. In some, 
he reproduces the thoughts of one tempted and still given 
over to the pleasures of this life; in others, he discusses 
matters that pertain to reason and tries to restrain the soul 
from pleasure. Accordingly, he says, 'Here is what I recognize 
as good: it is well for a man to eat and drink and enjoy all 
the fruits of his labor. 3 Somewhat later he adds, 'It is better 
to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting. 93 
If it is good to eat and drink, it would seem better to go to 
the house of feasting than to the house of mourning. 

It is clear from these passages that one statement is in- 
troduced through his impersonation of the weak, while the 
other is added from the dictates of reason, for he immedi- 
ately discusses the dictates of reason and shows the advantage 
of a house of mourning. Tor that is the end of every man/ 
he says, c and the living should take it to heart.' And again 
he writes, 'Rejoice, O young man, while you are young. 3 
While a little later he adds, 'The dawn of youth is fleeting.' 4 
In criticizing what he has just recommended, he indicates 
clearly that the former pronouncement proceeded from carnal 
desires, while the latter was based on a true judgment. 

First, in describing the pleasures of the flesh, he puts all 
cares out of his mind and states that it is good to eat and 
drink. Later, he finds fault with this view from the standpoint 
of reason, and says it is better to go to the house of mourning 
than to the house of feasting. Likewise, from purely carnal 
considerations ,he advises a young man to find his pleasure 
in his youth, and later, modifying this statement, he blames 

3 Eccle. 5.17; 7.2. 

4 Eccle. 7.2; 11.9,10. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 195 

youth and its pleasures as fleeting. So, too, when he speaks 
from the minds of the infirm, our preacher voices an opinion 
based on suspicion. Tor the lot of man and of beast/ he 
says, 'is one lot; the one dies as well as the other. Both have 
the same life-breath, and man has no advantage over the 
beast.' 5 Later, however, he presents conclusions drawn from 
reason and says, 'What has the wise man more than the 
fool? and what the poor man, but to go where there is life? 36 
So, after he says, 'Man has no advantage over the beast,' 
he again specifies that the wise man has an advantage not 
only over the beast, but also over the foolish man, namely, 
his ability to go 'where there is life.' With these words he 
points out, first of all, that man's true life is not found here 
on earth, for he claims that it is found elsewhere. This, then, 
is the great advantage man has over the animal: The animal 
does not live on after death, while man begins to live only 
when he has completed this visible life through bodily death. 
Farther on in the Book of Ecclesiastes he also says, 'Any- 
thing you can turn your hand to, do with what power you 
have; for there will be no work, nor reason, nor knowledge, 
nor wisdom in the nether world where you are going.' 7 How 
then can the lot of man and of beast be one, and the condi- 
tion of both be equal? How can it be true that man has 
nothing more than the beast, when the beast does not live 
on after death, while the spirit of man, if it has done evil, is 
led to hell after death and continues to live even in death? 
It is evident, then, that in both of these opposing statements 
the preacher is truthful: in one, he gives expression to man's 
temptation; in the other, he defines a spiritual truth. 

5 Eccle. 3.19. 

6 Eccle. 6.8 (Douay) . 

7 Eccle. 9.10. 



196 SAINT GREGORY 

PETER 

I am happy that I was ignorant on this point and proposed 
the question, for it provided an excellent opportunity for me 
to gain a thorough understanding. And now I beg you to 
bear patiently with me if I, too, like Ecclesiastes, impersonate 
the weak and continue the inquiry in their name in order 
to help them more directly. 

GREGORY 

Why should I be annoyed if you stoop to help a weak 
brother? Does not St. Paul say, C I have been everything by 
turns to everybody, to bring everybody salvation 5 ? 8 In doing 
this out of charity, you deserve greater respect, because you 
are thereby imitating the practice of an outstanding preacher. 

PETER 

(5) I once witnessed the sudden death of a monk. At one 
moment he was speaking to me and the next moment I 
saw him dead. But I did not see whether or not his soul 
departed. And I find it difficult to accept on faith what I 
cannot see. 

GREGORY 

Why should one be surprised. Peter, at not seeing the soul 
depart, when it is invisible even while it is in the body? Surely 
you do not think that I am without a soul just because you 
cannot see it while you are speaking with me? The soul is 

8 1 Cor. 9.22. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 



197 



invisible by nature and remains invisible whether it is in 
the body or departing from it. 

PETER 

But the life of the soul during its stay in the body can be 
observed from the movements of the body, because the body 
cannot move unless the soul is present. But in what move- 
ments or in what activities can I recognize the life of the 
soul after death? From what tangible signs can I learn of 
the existence of the invisible? 

GREGORY 

What I am going to say here of the power of the soul and 
the power of God is to be understood by way of contrast, 
not of comparison. The power of the soul makes the body 
live and move. So, also, God's power fills all His creatures. 
He gives life to some with His own breath; to others He gives 
animate or merely inanimate existence. Surely you believe 
that there is a God, the Creator and Ruler, unbounded and 
invisible, who fills and embraces all things, transcending 
and upholding them. You ought, then, also, to realize that 
this invisible God has invisible servants, for is it not proper 
that those who serve ought to bear a resemblance to the 
one they serve? The servants of the invisible God must, 
therefore, be invisible themselves. And who are these invisible 
servants, if not the angels and the souls of the just? 

In considering the movements of the body, it is from its 
lowest activity that we infer the soul's presence in the body. 
In like manner, when we judge the soul's continued existence 
after it leaves the body, we ought to draw our conclusions 



198 SAINT GREGORY 

from its highest activity. Now, the soul must be able to live 
invisibly, because it is to remain in the service of God. 

PETER 

That is all very true. But the mind rebels at believing what 
it cannot see with bodily eyes. 

GREGORY 

St. Paul says that faith 'is that which gives substance to 
our hopes, which convinces us of things we cannot see.' 9 
According to him, that which cannot be seen is truly said 
to be taken on faith, for an object that can be seen is no 
longer an object of faith. But to bring you back to yourself 
in a few words no visible objects are seen except through 
invisible powers. Everything the eye of your body looks upon 
is corporeal, yet that very physical eye would not see any- 
thing corporeal unless something incorporeal gave it those 
keen powers of vision. Take away the unseen mind, and the 
eye that used to see stares emptily into space. Take the soul 
from the body; let the eyes remain wide open. Now, if the 
eyes were able to see by their own power, why is it that they 
see nothing when the soul withdraws? The obvious conclusion 
is that visible things are seen only because of an invisible 
power. 

Imagine a house under construction, and visualize the 
lifting of immense weights, and large columns suspended 
from mighty cranes. Tell me, who is doing this work? Is it 
the visible body that pulls those massive materials with its 
hands, or is it the invisible soul that activates the body? For, 

9 Heb, 11.1. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 199 

if you take away the power invisibly present in the body, 
very soon all that visible mass of materials, which you saw 
moving, comes to a standstill. From such observations we 
begin to realize that in this visible world, too, nothing can 
be achieved except through invisible forces. Almighty God, 
then, with His breath and immanent power imparts life and 
movement to invisible, rational beings, which in their turn 
give movement and sensation to visible bodies of flesh and 
blood. 

PETER 

I gladly admit defeat in the face of your arguments, which 
compel me to consider this visible world relatively insignifi- 
cant, though, while I was speaking in the person of a weaker 
member, I questioned the importance of the invisible world. 
I heartily accept everything you say. Yet, since the physical 
movements of the body show that a living soul is present, I 
should also like to have some clear objective evidence for the 
continued existence of the soul after it leaves the body. 

GREGORY 

(6) If I find your heart prepared, producing the evidence 
will be no trouble at all. Would the holy Apostles and martyrs 
of Christ have despised the present life and accepted physical 
death in its stead, if they had not realized that true life 
awaits their souls hereafter? You acknowledge that the life 
of the soul in the body is recognized from the physical move- 
ments of the body. Now consider those who laid down their 
lives willingly because of their faith in a life hereafter, and 
see how renowned they have become through their miracles. 
The sick approach the lifeless remains of these martyrs and 



200 SAINT GREGORY 

are healed; perjurers come and find themselves tormented 
by Satan; the possessed come and are delivered from the 
power of the Devil; lepers approach and are cleansed; the 
dead are brought and are restored to life. Consider what a 
fullness of life they must enjoy where they now live, if even 
their dead bodies here on earth are alive with such miraculous 
powers. So, if you accept the presence of a soul in the body 
because of the body's physical activities, why do you not also 
recognize the continued life of the soul after death from the 
miracles performed through its lifeless body? 

PETER 

In my opinion, no objections can be brought against these 
arguments of yours which compel us to believe in the invisible 
world with evidence taken from the visible. 

GREGORY 

(7) A little while ago, you complained that you did not 
see the soul of a certain person as it departed from the body. 
It was a mistake on your part even to try to see an invisible 
being with your bodily eyes. For it was with spiritual vision, 
purified by acts of faith and abundant prayers, that many 
of our people were able repeatedly to observe souls leaving 
the body. I see a real need, therefore, of telling you how 
souls were observed at their departure from this world, and, 
also, how much the souls themselves could see on leaving the 
body. The examples given will, I hope, free your mind from 
all those disturbing doubts which reason alone evidently could 
not clear away. 

(8) In the second book of these Dialogues I related what I 
had heard from the disciples of the saintly Benedict. Though 



DIALOGUE FOUR 201 

he was a long distance from Capua, he watched the soul of 
Germanus, Bishop of Capua, being carried by angels up to 
heaven in a ball of fire in the dead of night. As he gazed at 
the soul rising to heaven, all the powers of his mind unfolded, 
and he saw the whole world gathered up before his eyes in 
what appeared to be a single ray of light. 

(9) These same disciples informed me that there were 
two noblemen, the brothers Speciosus and Gregory, both well 
trained in the various branches of secular learning, who had 
entered the monastery to submit themselves to the guidance 
of Benedict's rule. The man of God received them as monks 
for the monastery which he had founded near Terracina. The 
two brothers had been very wealthy, but had distributed all 
their wealth to the poor as a ransom for their souls, and 
remained as monks in this monastery. 

Once, Speciosus was sent to Capua on business for the 
monastery. Then one day, his brother Gregory, while seated 
at table with the community, was raised to a state of ecstasy 
and saw the soul of his brother, many "miles away, departing 
from this world. Informing the brethren of what had hap- 
pened, he hurried off to Capua, only to find his brother 
already buried. Upon inquiry he learned that Speciosus had 
died at the very hour when he had seen his soul departing. 

(10) While I was still in the monastery I was told the 
following incident by a very devout religious. The passengers 
on a boat heading from Sicily to Rome saw the soul of one 
of God's recluses of Samnium making its way to heaven. 
They were still far out at sea at the time. So, on landing, they 
made inquiries and found out that the servant of God had 
died the very day they saw his soul going to heaven. 

(11) It was also at this time that another holy man told 
me the story of the revered Abbot Spes, who built a monas- 



202 SAINT GREGORY 

tery in a place called Carnpli, about six miles from the old 
city of Norcia. Almighty God in His mercy saved this man 
from the eternal torments of hell by treating him with the 
utmost severity and at the same time favoring him with 
unusual graces. By freeing the abbot of a scourge with which 
He had been afflicting him, God showed how truly He had 
loved him even while chastising him. 

For forty years he suffered total blindness, unreleived by the 
faintest light of vision. Now, one cannot endure so severe a 
chastisement if God's grace is withdrawn, or if the same 
merciful Father who inflicts the suffering does not also supply 
the strenght to bear it. Otherwise, through our impatience, 
the punishment for sin only makes us greater sinners, and 
the lamentable outcome is that the remedy which gave fair 
promise of ending our sins only multiplies them. But God 
sees our weakness and, in applying His sanctions, mingles 
severity with a father's watchful concern over our well-being. 
In chastising His elect He shows a merciful justice in order 
always to have some to whom He can be justly merciful. For 
this reason He never allowed the old man to be destitute of 
interior illumination while He afflicted him with external 
darkness. Although fatigued with the scourge of this bodily 
hardship, the man of God always enjoyed an inner consola- 
tion, sheltered as he was by the power of the Holy Spirit. 
Forty years he spent in blindness, and then God restored 
light to his eyes, informing him at the same time that the day 
of his death was near. Besides this, He also urged him to 
preach the word of life to the monasteries of the surrounding 
territory, for, now that the light was restored to his body, 
it was only proper that he should visit his brother monks 
and explain to them the light that burns in the heart. 

He complied without delay, and on his visits to the neigh- 



DIALOGUE FOUR 203 

boring monasteries preached the life-giving principles he 
had learned through his own experience. He returned to 
his monastery after fifteen days of preaching and there, sur- 
rounded by his monks, he received the sacrament of the 
Lord's Body and Blood. Then all began the sacred chant 
of the psalms, and while the others continued with the 
psalmody, the man of God became fixed in prayer and so died. 
All present saw the abbot's soul escape from his body in the 
form of a dove. It rose upward through the open roof of the 
chapel and sped away from their sight until it disappeared 
in the heavens. I believe that the soul took the form of a 
dove because God wished to indicate by this symbol the 
simplicity of heart in which this man had served Him. 

(12) I must not forget to mention the story told me by 
Abbot Stephen, whom you know very well. He died in 
Rome not long ago. According to him, there was a priest 
in the province of Norcia who ruled the church entrusted 
to his care in the fear of the Lord. From the moment of 
his ordination to the priesthood, he loved his wife as a brother 
loves his sister, but he avoided her as he would an enemy, 
never allowing her to come near him nor permitting himself 
any opportunity of going near her. In this way he cut off all 
possible occasion of familiarity with her. It is characteristic 
of holy men always to keep their distance from what is un- 
lawful, .and in doing so they usually deny themselves even 
what is lawful. This priest, then, in order not to incur any 
guilt through her, refused to have her render him even the 
necessary services. 

After a long life, forty years of which he spent in the 
priestly ministry, he was seized with a severe fever and 
brought to the point of death. When his wife saw him lying 
there half-dead, with all the strength of his body wasted away, 



204 SAINT GREGORY 

she put her ear to his face trying to catch the least sound 
of breathing. 

Conscious of her presence, he mustered all his strength and 
with the little breath that was still in him he rasped in a 
hoarse whisper, 'Go away from me, woman. The fire is 
still flickering. Take away the tinder.' 

As she stepped back, strength seemed to return to him, 
and in an outburst of joy he exclaimed, 'It is good that you 
come, my lords ! It is good ! But why do you take the trouble 
to visit a worthless servant? I come! I come! I am most 
grateful to you!' 

Since he kept repeating these words, his friends standing 
at his side tried to find out to whom he was speaking. Sur- 
prised at their question, the sick man answered, 'Do you 
not see the holy Apostles present here? Do you not see the 
princes of the Apostles, Peter and Paul?' Then turning again to 
his vision he said, 'I come, I come.' And with these words he 
breathed his last. By following the Apostles he bore witness 
to the fact that he had seen them. 

It often happens that the saints of heaven appear to the 
just at the hour of death in order to reassure them. And, 
with the vision of the heavenly company before their minds, 
they die without experiencing any fear or agony. 

(13) On this subject I must tell you what I heard from 
the servant of God, Probus, who now presides over the 
monastery of St. Renatus here at Rome. He used to tell me 
of his uncle, Bishop Probus of Rieti, who was overtaken by 
a servere illness toward the end of his life. His father 
Maximus, in an attempt to find a cure for him, sent his 
servants out to the neighboring districts to summon doctors. 
They came and gathered round the bed of the sick bishop. 
After taking his pulse, they concluded that death was im- 



DIALOGUE FOUR 205 

minent. Since it was growing late and was nearly time for 
the evening meal, the bishop felt concern for the doctors. In 
fact, he was more solicitous for their welfare than for his 
own. So he had them accompany his aged father to the upper 
story of the episcopal residence to refresh themselves after 
their labor. 

They did so, leaving only one little boy behind with the 
bishop. This lad, Probus tells me, is still alive. While he was 
watching at the bedside of the sick bishop, he suddently saw 
some men in white robes approaching. The brilliance of their 
countenance far surpassed the splendor of their garments. 
Dazzled by the brightness of the vision, the boy began to ask 
in a loud, excited voice who these men were. Awakened by 
his voice the bishop, too, looked up to see the visitors and, 
recognizing immediately who they were, tried to calm the 
boy, who by this time was sobbing and shaking with fear. 
'Don'ts be afraid, my boy,' he said. 'The two martyrs, St. 
Juvenal and St. IJleutherius, are paying me a visit. 5 

But the boy ran from the room, as fast as he could, over- 
come with terror at the unusual sight, and told his father 
and the doctors what he had seen. They came down at once 
to see for themselves and found the bishop already dead. The 
holy martyrs, at whose sight the boy had been so frightened, 
had taken his soul with them. 

(14) Another story not to be passed over was told me by 
serious-minded and saintly people. In the time of the Goths a 
noble girl by the name of Galla, daughter of the consul and 
patrician Symmachus, was married at a very early age and 
a year later was widowed by the loss of her husband. Her age 
and wealth invited her to a second marriage in a world 
glowing with opportunity, but she preferred a spiritual 
marriage with the Lord. Marriages of this kind usually begin 



206 SAINT GREGORY 

with sorrow and suffering, but in the end lead to the eternal 
joys of heaven, whereas an earthly marriage always begins 
with joy but ends in sorrow. This young widow had a very pas- 
sionate nature, however, and was told by her doctors that, if 
she did not marry again, she would grow a beard even 
though she was a woman. And that is what happened. But 
the saintly woman was not disturbed by this external dis- 
figurement. She loved the beauty of her mystical spouse, and 
was not worried over this physical blemish, since her body 
was not the object of her heavenly spouse's love. Thus, 
shortly after her husband's death, she laid aside her secular 
garb and dedicated herself to the service of God in the con- 
vent at the Church of St. Peter the Apostle. For many years 
she lived there in simplicity of heart, giving herself to tireless 
prayer and generous works of charity. 

When God decreed to grant her an eternal reward for her 
labors, she was afflicted with cancer of the breast. It was her 
practice to keep two candles burning at the foot of her bed 
at night, because she hated darkness, being a friend of light, 
physical as well as spiritual light. One night, as she lay in bed 
worn out by her affliction, she saw the Apostle Peter standing 
between the two candlesticks near her bed. Without the least 
sign of fear, and encouraged by her love, she spoke to him 
with great joy. c What is it, my lord? 3 she said. 'Have my 
sins been forgiven? 5 With a most pleasant expression on his 
face, St. Peter nodded in affirmation. 'They are forgiven,' he 
said. 'Come.' But because of her very great love for one of the 
nuns of the convent, Galla added immediately, 'I beg you to 
let Sister Benedicta come with me.' He was unwilling to 
grant this request, but allowed another sister to accompany 
her. 'Sister Benedicta,' he explained, 'will follow you in thirty 
days.' 



DIALOGUE FOUR 207 

This ended their conversation and St. Peter vanished. 
Galla at once sent for the mother of the community and told 
her everything she had seen and heard. On the third day, 
Galla died and also the sister who had been mentioned by 
St. Peter. And the sister for whom Galla had especially asked 
followed in thirty days. This event is still one of the memor- 
able events of that convent. The younger sisters now in the 
community, who heard the story from the older ones, can 
tell it in all its details exactly as if they themselves had 
witnessed the miracle. 

( 15 ) In this connection we should also know that frequent- 
ly the sound of heavenly singing accompanies the death of 
the elect, and, while they listen to it with great delight, they 
are preserved from feeling pain at the separation of soul and 
body. I remember touching on this subject before, in my 
homilies on the Gospels, 10 where I spoke of a man named 
Servulus. I am sure you remember seeing this holy man in 
the portico which one passes on the way to the Church of St. 
Clement. He was poor in possessions but rich in merit. A 
long sickness had disabled him and, as far back as I can 
remember, he suffered from a severe paralysis which stayed 
with him till his death. To say that he could not stand on his 
feet does not describe his condition, for he could not raise 
himself in bed even to a sitting position, nor, could he put his 
hand to his face, or turn his body from one side to the other. 
His mother and brother were there to help him, and what- 
ever he received in the form of alms he asked them to 
distribute to the poor. He did not know how to read or 
write; still, he bought himself the sacred books of Scripture 
and had them read to him regularly by religious persons 
whom he used to invite to his home as guests. Thus in his own 

10 Horn, in Evang. 1.15.5 (PL 76.1133). 



208 SAINT GREGORY 

way he acquired a knowledge of the whole of Scripture, 
although, as I said, he was quite illiterate. In his sufferings 
he applied himself day and night to prayers of thanksgiving 
and hymns of praise. 

When the time came to receive the reward for his patience, 
the pain in his limbs centered on his vital organs. Realizing 
that death was near, he asked the strangers and guests to 
stand and recite with him the psalms for the dying. While he 
was chanting the psalms with them, awaiting death, he sud- 
denly interrupted their prayer with a frightened cry. 'Listen/ 
he said. c Do you not hear the beautiful hymns resounding in 
heaven?' As he turned his mind to follow the melodies re- 
sounding within him, his soul was freed from the body. 
At its departure a fragrant odor spread through the room, 
giving all a sense of indescribable delight. They were now 
assured that the choirs of heaven had received him into their 
company. A monk of our monastery who witnessed these 
events cannot refrain from weeping whenever he describes 
how this fragrant odor remained with them until the body 
was buried. 

(16) I recall that in the same homilies I mentioned an 
event to which Speciosus, a fellow priest of mine acquainted 
with the facts, bear me witness. 11 At the time of my 
entrance into the monastery, an aged woman named Re- 
dempta, who had assumed the garb of a religious, lived here 
in Rome near the Church of Blessed Mary Ever Virgin. She 
was a disciple of Herundo, a famous recluse, well known for 
her great miracles, who is said to have lived as a recluse in 
mountains of Praeneste. Redempta had two disciples living 
with her who wore the same kind of religious garb. One was 
called Romula and the name of the other, who still survives, 

11 Ibid. 2.40.11 (PL 76.1310-12). 



DIALOGUE FOUR 209 

I do not know, though I recognize her by sight. These three 
lived together in the same home, leading a life rich in 
virtue but very poor in earthly possessions. Romula surpassed 
her fellow sister in merit and virtue. She was a person of 
remarkable patience and obedience. Guarding her tongue in 
silence, she strove earnestly to live in a state of uninterrupted 
prayer. Now it often happens that some are considered 
perfect saints in the eyes of men, while in the sight of their 
Creator they are still marred by imperfections. Similarly, an 
unfinished statue might be praised as a perfect masterpiece 
by a person without proper training. But the artist, even 
after hearing his work praised, would still continue working 
with chisel and hammer until the statue was perfect in every 
detail. The case of Romula was similar. God allowed her to 
be afflicted with paralysis, a physical malady which confined 
her to bed for many years, depriving her almost entirely of 
the use of her limbs. This affliction did not cause her to lose 
patience, however. In fact, the physical disability was an 
occasion for her to grow in virtue. She became all the more 
zealous in the practice of prayer since she was unable to do 
anything else. 

One night she called for the gentle Redempta, who treated 
her disciples as her own daughters. 'Mother, 5 she said, e come, 
please come to me.' Redempta answered her call instantly 
and arrived with her other disciple. This scene, just as it was 
described by the two nuns, became known to many, and I, 
too, learned about it at the time. While they stood around 
Romula's bed at midnight, a light suddenly shown down 
from heaven, flooding the entire room. Its splendor and 
brilliance struck fear and dread into their hearts. Their bodies 
became rigid and remained fixed as if paralyzed. Then they 
heard the sound of an immense throng. The door of the room 



210 SAINT GREGORY 

was thrown wide open as if a great number of persons were 
pushing their way in. Those who stood round the bed had 
the impression that the room was being crowed with people, 
but because of their excessive fear and the extreme brightness 
they were unable to see. Fear paralyzed them and the brilliant 
light dazzled their eyes. Just then a delightful odor filled the 
air and with its fragrance calmed their souls which were still 
terrified by the sudden light. Since they could not bear the 
brightness, Romula tried to console them. Looking at her 
spiritual mother Redempta, who stood at the bedside trem- 
bling, she said in a pleasant voice, c Do not fear, mother, I 
shall not die yet.' As she kept repeating these words, the 
heavenly light gradually dimmed, while the pleasant odor 
lingered on. The second and third day passed, and still the 
fragrance remained undiminished. 

The fourth night Romula again called her mistress and 
asked to receive holy Viaticum. Scarcely had Redempta and 
her other disciple left the bedside when they saw two choirs 
of singers standing in the square in front of the convent. The 
voices they heard, as they told us, were those of men and 
women, the men singing the psalms and the women the re- 
sponses. While these ceremonies for her departure were cele- 
brated in front of the entrance, the soul of Romula was set free 
from the body to be conducted directly to heaven. And as 
the choirs escorted her soul, rising higher and higher, the 
sound of their singing gradually diminished, until finally the 
music of the psalms and the sweetness of the odor vanished 
altogether. 

(17) Sometimes our Creator and Redeemer Himself ap- 
pears to a departing soul to offer it consolation. As an example 
of this I wish to repeat here what I wrote in the homilies on 



DIALOGUE FOUR 211 

the Gospels 12 about my aunt Tarsilla. She and her two sisters 
had reached a high degree of sanctity together through a 
life of constant prayer, recollection and severe self-denial. 
On one occasion my grandfather Felix, 13 Bishop of Rome, 
appeared to her in a vision and showed her the home of 
eternal bliss, saying, c Come! I will receive you into this 
dwelling of light.' 

Shortly after, she was struck down by a fever and brought 
to death's door. Many people came to console the near 
relatives, as is the custom when one of the nobility is about 
to die. Consequently, a goodly number of men and women 
had gathered round her bed at the time of her death. 
Suddenly she looked up and saw Jesus coming. She turned 
to her visitors with a look of great concern. 'Stand back! 
Stand back!' she exclaimed. 'Jesus is coming.' While she 
directed her gaze intenly on the vision, her holy soul took its 
leave from the body. With this, a refreshing fragrance filled 
the room, indicating to all the presence of Him who is the 
source of all that is fragrant and refreshing. 

When her body was washed in preparation for burial, 
her elbows and knees were found covered with a thick skin 
like that of a camel. Thus, in death, her body gave witness 
to the many hours she had spent in pious prayer. 

(18) I will also include the story Probus told me about 
his little sister Musa. One night the Blessed Virgin Mary, 
Mother of God, appeared to her and showed her other little 
girls of her own age dressed in white. Though Musa was 
eager to be with them, she did not dare join their ranks. 
Noticing this, the Blessed Virgin asked her whether she 
wished to be with them in her court. Naturally, the little 

12 Ibid. 2.38.15 (PjL 76.1290-92) . 

13 Pope Felix III (483-492) . 



212 SAINT GREGORY 

girl said she did. Whereupon., our Blessed Lady commanded 
her not to do anything silly, as foolish little girls often do; 
instead, she was to keep from laughing and joking, and to 
remember at all times that in thirty days she would be one 
of the little girls in white. 

After the vision the girl's character was completely changed. 
She took herself in hand and with great strictness avoided 
every kind of girlish foolishness. Her astounded parents asked 
her for an explanation of this sudden change. She told them 
that the Blessed Virgin had given her special instructions 
and had set the day on which she was to join her companions 
in heaven. After the twenty-fifth day she fell sick with a 
fever. On the thirtieth, as the hour of her death drew near, 
she saw the Blessed Virgin coming to her with the same train 
of girls. Our Blessed Lady called to her, and little Musa 
reverently lowered her eyes as she answered with a clear 
voice, e l am corning, my noble Lady, I am coming to you.' 
With these words she gave up her soul. Leaving her virginal 
body here below, she set out to live with the holy virgins of 
heaven. 

PETER 

Since the human race is subject to countless vices, I am 
inclined to think that the heavenly Jerusalem is filled mostly 
with infants and children. 

GREGORY 

(19) Even though we must believe that all baptized 
children who die in their infancy go to heaven, we should 
not suppose that all children, once they have learned how 
to speak, will enter the kingdom of heaven; sometimes 



DIALOGUE FOUR 213 

parents close the gates of heaven against their own children 
by not giving them proper upbringing. 

For example, about three years ago, there was a man 
here at Rome well known to all. He had a son about five 
years old. Because of an all too human affection, the father 
was remiss in training the child. As a result, this little boy 
used to blaspheme the infinite majesty of God whenever 
anything did not go according to his wishes. A lamentable 
fact, indeed. During the pestilence three years ago, the boy 
became deathly sick. In order to quiet him, the anxious 
father held him in his arms, but the boy, as eye-witnesses 
tell me, seeing the evil spirits coming at him, hid his terror- 
stricken face in his father's arms and shouted, 'Hold them 
back. Hold them back! 3 When his father asked him what 
he had seen to make him tremble so, the boy answered, 
'Devils were after me to take me away.' Then, uttering a 
blasphemy, he died. 

By allowing him to repeat with his dying breath the 
blasphemy which the father had failed to correct, God 
wished to call attention to the sin of neglect which delivered 
the boy into the hands of the his executioners. It was God's 
patience that allowed the boy to continue his blasphemies; 
it was an act of His supreme judgment that the boy should 
die with a blasphemy on his lips. The father recognized his 
sin. In neglecting the soul of his little son he had made of 
him a sinner worthy of the fires of hell. But now, let us turn 
from these sad accounts to consider again the happier events 
we were describing. 

(20) It was from the same Probus and some other saintly 
men that I learned the events I related about Abbot Stephen 
in my homilies on the Gospels. 14 As Probus and the others 
tell me, Stephen was a man who owned nothing in this 

14 Horn, in Evang. 2.35.8 (PL 76.1263-64) . 



214 SAINT GREGORY 

world, and looked for nothing. Above all, he loved poverty 
with God, practiced patience in adversity, and avoided the 
gatherings of the >worldy minded. His one great desire was 
to spend all his time at prayer, I wish to mention but one 
example of his virtues, and from this one we can judge all 
the others. 

Once, after Stephen had cut the grain and stored it in 
the bam, some envious persons spurred on by the Devil 
himself set fire to it, destroying it completely. Stephen had 
sowed this crop with his own hands and the monks depended 
on it as their only supply of food for the year. A man who 
had witnessed the unholy deed informed him of what had 
taken place and added: C A sad, sad thing has happened 
to you, Father Stephen.' e lt is a sad thing, rather, for him 
who burned the grain,' calmly answered Stephen, 'for nothing 
has actually happened to me. 5 These words help us under- 
stand the heights of sanctity he had reached, since he could 
accept with perfect unconcern the loss of the only possession 
he had in this world. In fact, he found more reason to grieve 
for the culprit who committed the sin, than for himself who 
suffered the damage. Taking no account of his own temporal 
loss, he considered only the sinner's spiritual harm. 

In his last days, when death was hovering near, many 
people came to commend themselves to his holy soul before 
it took its leave from this world. Some of those who stood 
round his bed at the time became speechless with amazement 
when they saw angels entering the room. Others saw nothing 
at all. But everyone was struck with fear, and none of them 
could remain in the room at the soul's departure. All of 
them without exception, those who had seen the angels as 
well as those who had seen nothing, fled the room in terror. 
The power that received this soul at death must have been 
mighty indeed, for no human being could endure its presence. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 215 

(21) We must realize., however, that sometimes the worth- 
iness of the soul is not made known at the time of its 
departure, but becomes evident only later on. This was the 
case with the martyrs, who at their death suffered many cruel 
tortures from the infidels. Yet, as I have mentioned, they 
now shine forth brilliantly with the miracles wrought at 
their tombs. 

(22) The revered Valentio, who later was my abbot in 
my monastery here at Rome, had previously ruled his own 
monastery in the province of Valeria. One day the fierce 
Lombards entered his monastery, as he himself told me, and, 
seizing two of his monks, killed them by hanging them from 
the branch of a tree. In the evening the spirits of these two 
monks began to chant psalms with strong, clear voices* The 
murderers, hearing their voices, were overcome with amaze- 
ment and terror. All the captives present in the camp also 
heard their voices and later testified to the truth of this 
miracle. God wished to have the voices of these spirits reach 
human ears, so that human beings might learn in a human 
way that if they serve God zealously they will live then* true 
lives hereafter. 

(23) While I was a monk at Rome I was told about the 
saintly Suranus, abbot of a monastery in Sura, a neighboring 
province. The story is vouched for by God-fearing men. Being 
abbot during the Lombard invasion, Suranus distributed the 
goods of his monastery in alms to those who escaped from 
Lombard imprisonment or were fleeing from their marauding- 
hordes. After giving away all his own clothing and that of 
the monks and using up all the foodstuffs in the storeroom, 
he even distributed the produce from the garden. When 
everything had been given away, the Lombards suddenly 
made their appearance. They wanted gold. The abbot, held 
fast by the Lombards, explained to them that he possessed 



216 SAINT GREGORY 

nothing whatsoever. Whereupon they led him to a hill nearby, 
covered by heavy woods, and here one of the barbarians 
struck him a fatal blow with a sword. A prisoner who had 
escaped -from the Lombards lay hidden in a hollow tree 
on this very spot. When the abbot's body fell to the ground, 
a quick tremor shook the forest on the hilltop. It was as if 
the earth openly declared that the fall of this great saint was 
too much for it to bear. 

(24) A saintly deacon of the province of Marsia fell into 
the hands of the Lombards, and was decapitated by one of 
them with a sword. When the body fell to the ground, an 
unclean spirit seized the murderer and cast him at the feet 
of the prostrate corpse. This Lombard was delivered into 
the power of God's enemy because he had killed God's 
friend. 

PETER 

Can you tell me why it is that almighty God allows His 
saints to die in this way, yet after their death causes the high 
degree of their sanctity to become known to all? 

GREGORY 

It is written in the Scriptures, 'But the just man, though 
he die early, shall be at rest. 315 What, then, does it matter 
to the just if they undergo harsh treatment at death, since 
they are on their way to eternal life? Sometimes, perhaps, 
it is a fault of theirs, slight though it be, that has to be 
expiated by such a death. For this reason the reprobate are 
given power over the just while they are still alive. But, once 
the just have died, the wicked are punished all the more 

15 Wisd. 4.7. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 



217 



severely because of the cruel power they exercised against 
holy men. This is demonstrated in the case of the barbarian 
who was permitted by God to strike down the deacon, but 
was not allowed to rejoice over his death. It is also verified 
in holy Scripture. 

(25) The man of God, for instance, who was sent to 
Samaria stopped on the way for a meal, contrary to God's 
command. For this disobedience he was killed by a lion. 
But Scripture at once adds that the ass and the lion were 
standing by the dead prophet, and 'the lion had not eaten 
of the dead body. 316 

From this passage we see that the sin of disobedience was 
atoned for by his death, because the lion attacked the living 
prophet and killed him, yet did not dare touch him once 
he was dead. God allowed the beast to kill, but not to eat 
of its kill, because the prophet, though blameworthy in life, 
was sanctified in the death he suffered as a punishment for 
his disobedience. In the first instance the lion took away the 
life of a sinner; in the second he stood guard over the body 
of a just man. 

PETER 

I am pleased with your answer. I should now like to know 
whether the souls of the just are received into heaven before 
they are finally united to their bodies. 

GREGORY 

(26) We cannot affirm or deny this of all the elect for 
there are just souls who are delayed somewhere outside 
heaven. The delay imposed on them seems to indicate that 
they are still lacking in perfect justice. Yet, nothing is more 

16 3 Kings 13.28. 



218 SAINT GREGORY 

certain than that the souls of those who have attained perfect 
justice are received into the kingdom of heaven as soon as 
they leave the body. Christ Himself is our witness when He 
says, It is where the body lies that the eagles will gather. 517 
For, wherever our Redeemer is bodily present, there the souls 
of the just will gather. And St. Paul desires to have done 
with the present life, 'and be with Christ. 518 We firmly 
believe that Christ is in heaven. Should we, then, not believe 
that the soul of Paul is there, too? For, in writing about 
his death and the life in heaven, he says, 'Once this earthly 
tent-dwelling of ours has come to an end, God, we are sure, 
has a solid building waiting for us, a dwelling not made with 
hands, that will last eternally in heaven. 519 

PETER 

If the souls of the just are already in heaven, how is it 
that they will receive the reward for their justice on ,the day 
of judgment? 

GREGORY 

The just will indeed see an increase in their reward on the 
day of judgment, inasmuch as up till then they enjoyed 
only the bliss of the souL After the judgment, however, 
they will also enjoy bodily bliss, for the body in which they 
suffered grief and torments will also share in their happiness. 
In regard to this double glory the Scriptures say, 'They shall 
receive double in their land.' 20 It is in reference to a time 

17 Luke 17.37. 

18 Phil. 1.23. 

19 2 Cor. 5.1. 

20 Isa. 61.7. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 



219 



before the day of resurrection that they say of the elect, 
* Whereupon a white robe was given to each of them, and 
they were bidden to take their rest a little while longer, until 
their number had been made up by those others, their 
brethren and fellow-servants/ 21 Those, therefore, who receive 
each a single robe are going to receive a double robe on the 
day of judgment. Just as they rejoice now only in the glory 
of their soul, they will then rejoice in the double glory of 
body and soul. 

PETER 

I agree with what you say. Now I would like to know how- 
it happens that people so often make predictions when they 
are at the point of death. 

GREGORY 

(27) Sometimes it is through a subtle power of their own 
that souls can foresee the future. At other times the future 
is made known to them through revelation shortly before 
death. Again, they are sometimes divinely inspired when they 
are on the point of leaving the body, and thus enabled to 
gaze upon the secrets of the heavenly kingdom with the 
incorporeal eye of their mind. 

There is evidence to show that sometimes the soul by its 
own subtle powers has knowledge of the future. Take, for 
example, the life of the lawyer Gumquodeus. He lived here 
at Rome and died of pleurisy about two years ago. Shortly 
before he died, he called for his servant and asked him to 
prepare his clothes, for he was going out. The servant dis- 
regarded the command, thinking his master was delirious. 
So the lawyer got out of bed, clothed himself and announced 

21 Apoc. 6.11. 



220 SAINT GREGORY 

that he was going to the Church of St. Sixtus on the Via 
Appia. 

In a short time his illness became critical and he died. 
After some consultation, it was decided that his body should 
be laid to rest in the Church of St. Januarius on the Via 
Praenestina. But the pall-bearers thought this was too far 
away. A new plan was quickly formed and, without realizing 
what the sick man had said, the bearers went along the Via 
Appia and laid the body to rest in the church which the 
lawyer had designated before his death. 

Since we know this lawyer was deeply engrossed in secular 
affairs, craving for earthly gain, how could he have foretold 
this future event if he had not seen it through the natural, 
subtle forces of his own soul? 

But, frequently, knowledge of the future is given to the 
dying by revelation. This we can observe from some of the 
experiences in our monasteries. In my monastery, for example, 
there was a brother named Gerontius, who, about ten years 
ago, was overtaken by a severe illness. At night, in a vision, 
he saw men in shining white robes coming down from heaven 
into the monastery. When all of them had taken their places 
besides his bed, one of them said, c We have come to Gregory's 
monastery to enroll some of the brethren in our militia.' 
Then, turning to a companion of his, he said, 'Write down 
the names of Marcellus, Valentinian, and Agnellus. 3 He 
mentioned some others, too, whose names I cannot remember 
at the moment. When these names had been written down> 
he said, 'Add also the name of this man who is now looking 
at us. 3 

The next morning, relying on the information he had 
received in this vision, Gerontius told his brethren the names 
of the monks who would die, not forgetting to mention that 
he himself would follow the others. On the appointed day 



DIALOGUE FOUR 221 

the monks died in the order in which they had been named. 
Gerontius himself was the last to die. 

During the plague which devasted Rome three years ago 
with terrible loss of life, there was a monk by the name of 
Mellitus in the monastery at Ostia. He was still a young man, 
but had acquired a remarkable degree of simplicity and 
humility. When his appointed hour came, he contracted 
the plague. Hearing of his sickness, Bishop Felix of Ostia, 
who is also the source for this account, hastened to Mellitus' 
bedside and with persuasive and comforting words assured 
him there was no reason to fear death. In fact, he even 
promised that God in His mercy would grant him an exten- 
tion of life. But the sick monk answered that his span of 
life had come to an end. A young man had appeared to 
him with a letter, he said, commanding him to open it and 
read. On opening it, he had found his own name and the 
names of all the others whom Bishop Felix had baptized at 
Easter time written down in letters of gold. His own name 
had appeared first on the list, followed by the others. For 
this reason he was certain that he and the others would die 
very soon. 

He died the same day, and the others followed shortly 
after. Thus, within a few days, the entire group of those 
who had been baptized together passed away. We can be 
sure, therefore, that the saintly monk Mellitus had seen 
their names written in gold because they had been entered 
into the book of eternal life. 

Souls like these had knowledge of the future through 
revelation. There are other souls who at the time of death 
have a foretaste of the mysteries of heaven, not through 
dreams, but in a state of full awareness. Take, for example, 
the incident brought to my attention by Ammonius, a monk 



222 SAINT GREGORY 

of my monastery. You know him well. While he was still 
leading a secular life, he had married the daughter of 
Valerian, an attorney in Rome, to whom he became very 
much attached and was frequently found in his company. 
This also explains his thorough acquaintance with all the 
details of Valerian's household. 

After entering my monastery, he told me of an event that 
occurred during the terrible plague which devastated Rome 
in the days of the patrician Narses. The attorney Valerian 
had a servant in his home by the name of Armentarius, a 
boy of unusual simplicity and humility. When the plague 
struck this household, the boy was one of its first victims and 
death carried him off in a short time. But he quickly returned 
to life and asked to see his master. 'I have been in heaven,' 
he said, 'and have found out what members of this household 
are going to die.' After mentioning some of them by name, 
he told his master not to fear because he was not to die at 
this time. 'But, 3 he continued, 'to prove to you that I am 
speaking the truth and that I really was in heaven, I must 
tell you that I received the power of speaking all languages. 
You were aware of my complete ignorance of Greek. But I 
shall speak Greek to you now and you will realize that I 
received the gift of tongues from heaven.' 

Then his master spoke to him in Greek, and all were 
astonished to hear the boy answer in the same language. 
Narses' sword-bearer, a Bulgarian, lived in the same house. 
So he, too, was brought to the sickbed to speak to the boy 
in Bulgarian. Though born and raised in Italy, the boy 
answered the sword-bearer in his own language, as if he 
were his fellow countryman. All were amazed. Having tried 
the boy's ability in these two languages of which he had been 
completely ignorant before, the family was now convinced 



DIALOGUE FOUR 



223 



that the boy could speak all languages even though he was 
not able to prove his powers to the full at this time. He 
remained alive for two days. On the third day, through an 
unknown judgment of God, he died in a frenzy, biting his 
hands and arms. All those whose death he had foretold 
were taken one by one, while the rest of the household was 
spared. 

PETER 

It is a terrifying thing to hear that he was afflicted with 
this dread punishment after he had been singularly blessed 
with the gift of tongues. 

GREGORY 

Who can comprehend the hidden judgments of God? 
When His judgments are beyond our understanding, we 
should stand before them in awe rather than with a question- 
ing mind. 

(28) But to continue the exposition we began about 
departing souls and their knowledge of the future, I must 
tell you about Theophane, Count of Centum CeUae. 22 While 
I was stationed in that city I heard many reports about him. 
He was a man given to acts of mercy, always ready to 
undertake a good work, zealous in practicing hospitality, 
and actively engaged in performing the duties of his office 
as count. He was busy with the temporal concerns of this 
world, but, as became clear later, more through a sense of 
duty than by choice. 

When he was on the point of death, and a spell of very 
bad weather would have made his burial impossible, his 

22 Modern Civitavecchia. 



224 SAINT GREGORY 

wife, all in tears, came to him for advice. 'What shall I do? 5 
she asked. 'How can I take you out for burial if I myself 
cannot go beyond the threshold of the house on account of 
the storm? 3 'Do not weep, my dear/ he told her. 'As soon as I 
am dead fair weather will return.' 

With this he died, and just then the sky became clear. 
Other signs accompanied this change. His hands and feet, 
swollen with the gout, had broken open into running sores. 
When his body was being prepared for the customary 
washing, his hands and feet were found completely healed 
as if they had never been infected. He was then given proper 
burial. Four days later, his wife decided to replace the 
marble slab over his tomb. When the slab was removed, a 
fragrant odor rose from the grave as though his remains 
were not in a state of corruption, the prey of worms, but 
permeated with aromatic balm. 

When I mentioned this miracle in one of my sermons, 23 
some people of weak faith expressed doubts about the truth 
of my statement. Later, at a meeting of nobles, the workmen 
who had removed the marble from the tomb came to 
question me about some difficulties they had. So in the 
presence of the clergy, the nobility, and the people, I asked 
them about the miracle. They declared that the fragrant 
odor at the tomb was the result of a miracle, and added 
other details about the burial to substantiate their words. 
It would take too long for me to repeat all their statements 
here. 

PETER 

You have answered my inquiries very satisfactorily. But 
there is still one question that keeps troubling my mind. A 

23 Horn, in Evang. 2.36.13 (PL 76.1273) . 



DIALOGUE FOUR 225 

little while ago you said the souls of the saints are already 
in heaven. We should therefore also believe that the souls 
of the wicked are in hell. I do not know what Christ has 
taught us in this regard, but from human reason we should 
conclude that the souls of sinners could not be punished 
until the day of judgment. 

GREGORY 

(29) If you believe on the basis of God's word that the 
souls of the saints are in heaven, you must also believe that 
the souls of the wicked are in hell. For, if eternal justice 
brings God's chosen ones to glory, does it not follow that 
it also brings the wicked to their doom? The saints, then, 
rejoice in bliss, and we cannot but believe that from the 
day of their death the reprobate burn in fire. 

PETER 

What reason have we to believe that a physical fire can 
attack an incorporeal substance? 

GREGORY 

(30) If the incorporeal spirit of a living man is held fast in 
the body, why should the incorporeal spirit after death not be 
held fast in corporeal fire? 

PETER 

In a living person the incorporeal spirit is held in the 
body because it imparts life to the body. 



226 SAINT GREGORY 

GREGORY 

If the incorporeal spirit can be held in the body to which 
it gives life, why should it not be held for punishment in a 
place where it endures punishment? When we say that the 
spirit is held by fire we mean that it is in torment of fire by 
seeing and feeling. Seeing the fire, it begins to suffer, and 
when it sees itself attacked by flames it feels the burning. 
In this way a corporeal substance burns an incorporeal one, 
because an invisible burn and an invisible pain are received 
from visible fire. In this physical fire, therefore, the incorporeal 
mind is tortured with an incorporeal fire that causes pain, 
although from the words of Scripture we gather that the 
soul suffers from the burning heat, not only through its 
sense of sight, but also by actually experiencing the pain. 
We know from Christ's words that the rich man was buried 
in hell, and his prayer to Abraham declares that his soul 
was held in fire. 'Send Lazarus,' he says, c to dip the tip of 
his finger in water, and cool my tongue; I am tormented 
in this flame.' 24 Since Christ describes the condemned sinner 
Dives surrounded by the flames of hell, no one with under- 
standing would deny that the souls of the wicked are held 
fast in fire. 

PETER 

The demands of reason and the authority of Scripture 
incline me to believe. But left to itself, my mind stubbornly 
returns to the question, for how can an incorporeal substance 
be held and tortured by one that is corporeal? This is 
beyond my comprehension. 

24 Luke 16.24. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 227 

GREGORY 

Tell me this. Peter. Do you think that the apostate spirits 
who were cast down from their heavenly glory were corporeal 
or incorporeal? 

PETER 

Who in his right senses would say that a spirit is corporeal? 
GREGORY 

Well then, would you say the fire of hell is incorporeal 
or corporeal? 

PETER 

I am firmly convinced that the fire of hell is corporeal 
and that bodies are tortured in it. 

GREGORY 

On the last day Christ will say to the wicked, "Go far 
from me, you that are accursed, into that eternal fire which 
has been prepared for the devil and his angels.' 25 If these 
incorporeal beings, the Devil and his angels, are going to 
be tortured by physical fire, is it incredible that souls should 
be able to suffer physical torments even before they are again 
united with the body? 

PETER 

The point is now clear, and I should not be troubled with 
further doubts on this question. 

25 Matt. 25.41. 



228 SAINT GREGORY 

GREGORY 

(31) After all the difficulty you had in settling your 
doubts, I believe it worth while to relate here a story that 
I have on good, trustworthy authority. Julian, the second 
defender of the church at Rome, where by God's grace I 
now preside, often came to visit me in my monastery in 
order to discuss the interests of his soul. He died about seven 
years ago. One day he, told me the following story. 

'In the days of King Theodoric,' he said, c my son-in-law's 
father was collecting taxes in Sicily. Once on his way back 
to Italy, his ship was driven ashore on the island of Lipari, 
which happens to be the home of a hermit known for his 
extraordinary spiritual powers. While the sailors were reparing 
the ship's rigging, my kinsman and his men decided to pay 
the saintly man a visit and beg a remembrance in his prayers. 
During their visit, while conversing on various subjects, the 
man of God asked them whether they knew that King 
Theodoric had died. "But that cannot be !" they exclaimed. 
"For when we left, he was alive, and no word has reached 
us yet of his death." The servant of God assured them he had 
died. "Yesterday, 53 he said, "at three o'clock. Pope John 
and the patrician Symmachus led him, disrobed and barefoot, 
with his hands in chains, to the brink of a neighboring 
volcano and cast him into its flaming abyss. 55 

'Hearing this, the visitors carefully noted the day, and, 
on reaching Italy, discovered that Theodoric had died on 
the day indicated by the saintly hermit. Because he had 
killed Pope John with the hardships of imprisonment and 
had executed the patrician Symmachus with the sword, it 
seems very proper that the vision should show these two men 
hurling Theodoric into hell, since he had condemned both 
of them unjustly.' 

(32) When I first experienced the desire to embrace 
monastic life, I was frequently in the company of an old 



DIALOGUE FOUR 229 

man,, a friend of mine named Deusdedit. He was known for 
his uprightness and was on very friendly terms with the 
nobility of Rome. It is from him that I have the following 
story. 

'In the time of the Goths,' he said, c a prominent man 
named Reparatus was nearing his death. After he had been 
lying silent and motionless for some time, it became evident 
that all breathing had ceased and that the body was a lifeless 
corpse. While the crowd that had gathered round the body 
was grieving with the members of his family over his death, 
Reparatus suddenly came back to life. The mourners' sorrow 
turned into amazement. The first thing he said was, "Send 
a messenger to the Church of St. Lawrence the Martyr, which 
is called 'The Damasus Church' after its builder, to see how 
things stand with the priest Tiburtius., and have him bring 
back a report at once." 

'Now, Tiburtius had the reputation of being a dissolute 
and sensual man, and as such he is also well remembered by 
Florentius, who is now the priest in charge of that church. 
After the messenger had set out, Reparatus described what 
he had heard and seen during his stay in the next world. 
"An immense pyre had been prepared," he said "and the 
priest Tiburtius was brought in and placed on top of it. 
Fire was then set to the huge mass and the unfortunate priest 
perished in the flames. But there was a second pyre, whose 
summit seemed lost in the sky, and a loud voice was heard 
shouting, 'Whose pyre is this?' " Having said this, Reparatus 
died. The priest Tiburtius, too, was found dead when the 
messenger arrived.' 

His journey to hell, his return and description of what 
he had seen, and his subsequent death, indicate that all this 
did not happen for Reparatus' own benefit, but as a warning 
for us that we should use the opportunities given us to correct 
our evil ways. And the prye of wood which Reparatus saw 



230 SAINT GREGORY 

does not mean that wood is burned in hell. It was meant, 
rather, to give him a vivid picture of the fires of hell, so 
that, in describing them to the people, they might learn to 
fear the eternal fire through their experience with natural 
fire. 

(33) The saintly Maximian, Bishop of Syracuse, who for 
a long time was abbot of my monastery here in Rome, told 
me of a shocking incident that occurred in the province of 
Valeria. A city official,' he said, 'acted as sponsor at the 
baptism of a young girl one Easter Saturday. On his return 
home after the long fast, he drank wine to excess. Begging 
the girl to stay at his home for the night, he committed the 
unspeakable crime of seducing her. When he got up in the 
morning, Ms guilty conscience plagued him, and he began 
to consider whether he should take a bath, as if water could 
wash away the stain of his sin. So he proceeded to wash, 
and then began to tremble at the thought of going to church. 
But, if he would not go to church on the great feast of Easter, 
what would people say? And, if he went, he stood in dread 
of God's judgment. Human respect won the day. He went 
to church, but trembled with fear, suspecting every moment 
to be handed over to the unclean spirit to be tormented in 
the presence of the entire congregation. Though he was in 
constant dread, nothing happened to him during the celebra- 
tion of the Easter Mass. He left the church in a happy mood. 
Next day, he entered the church feeling more secure. For 
six days he continued in this way without any worries, 
thinking that God had either not seen his crime or in His 
mercy had forgiven it. 

'On the seventh day, however, sudden death overtook him. 
After his burial, tongues of fire were seen issuing from his 
grave. These continued to burn for a long time, feeding on 
his remains until they had consumed them entirely, causing 
the mound of earth over the burial place to cave in. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 231 

'By decreeing that this man's body be visibly consumed 
in fire, almighty God indicated the kind of punishment his 
soul was enduring unseen. By the example of this incident 
God gives us a lesson in fear, for, when we see that even 
the insensible bones are consumed in fire, we learn to under- 
stand the terrible sufferings a living, sensitive soul must 
endure for its sins.' 

PETER 

I would like to know whether the saints in heaven recognize 
each other, and whether this likewise holds true of the 
damned in hell. 

GREGORY 

(34) An explanation of this question is very clearly set 
down by our Lord in the passage I referred to above. 26 
'There was a rich man once,' He says, 'that was clothed in 
purple and lawn, and feasted sumptuously every day. And 
there was a beggar^ called Lazarus, who lay at his gate, 
covered with sores, wishing that he could be fed with the 
crumbs which fell from the rich man's table, but none was 
ready to give them to him; the very dogs came and licked 
his sores.' And he adds that Lazarus after his death was 
carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom,' while the rich 
man died 'and found his grave in hell. And there, in his 
suffering, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off, 
and Lazarus in his bosom. And he said, with a loud cry, 
Father Abraham, take pity on me; send Lazarus to dip the 

26 Luke 16.19-28. 



23 2 SAINT GREGORY 

tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue. 5 And Abraham 
said to him, 'My son, remember that thou didst receive thy 
good fortune in thy lifetime, and Lazarus, no less, his ill 
fortune.' 

Despairing of his own salvation, the rich man now tried 
to save the members of his family. 'Father/ he said, I pray 
thee send him to my own father's house; for I have five 
brethren; let him give these a warning, so that they may 
not come, in their turn, into this place of suffering. 5 

Obviously, the good recognize each other and so do the 
wicked. If Abraham had not known Lazarus and his past 
trials, he surely would not have spoken to the rich man 
in hell about the misfortunes Lazarus had suffered in his 
lifetime. And if evil men did not recognize their own kind, 
the rich man in his torments would not have been solicitous 
about his absent brothers on earth. Surely he would not 
fail to recognize them when present, if he remembered to 
pray for them when they were absent. 

This parable explains another point which you overlooked 
in your inquiry, namely, that the good recognize the wicked 
and vice versa, Abraham recognized Dives when he said, 
Thou didst receive good fortune in thy lifetime.' In like 
manner, Dives recognized Lazarus, even mentioning him 
by name when he said to Abraham: 'Send Lazarus to dip 
the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue.' This 
mutual recognition has a profound effect on the eternal 
status of souls. The good rejoice the more to see their loved 
ones in a happy eternity with them; the wicked, on the 
other hand, seeing themselves punished with those whom 
they loved in their godless life on earth, are tormented not 



DIALOGUE FOUR 



233 



only by their own sufferings, but also by the sufferings of 
their friends. 

But there is something even more wonderful in store for 
God's chosen ones. They will recognize not only those whom 
they knew on earth, but many saintly men and women 
whom they had never seen before will appear to them as 
old friends. And so, when they meet the saints of the ancient 
past, they will not appear unfamiliar to them, for they always 
knew them through their deeds. The saints behold God with 
a clarity common to all. Why, then, should anything be 
unknown to them in heaven where they know God, the 
all-knowing? 

(35) One of our monks, a holy man of very praiseworthy 
life, died about four years ago. In his last moments, as 
those present at his death testify, he saw the Prophets Jonas, 
Ezechiel, and Daniel, and called these great masters by 
name. Then, saying that they were approaching, he closed 
his eyes out of reverence for them, and so died. Now, if this 
man, still shrouded in corruptible flesh, could recognize the 
holy Prophets whom he surely never saw before, we can 
readily understand what our knowledge will be in the in- 
corruptible life of eternal glory. 

(36) It frequently happens that a soul on the point of 
death recognizes those with whom it is to share the same 
eternal dwelling for equal blame or reward. Eleutherius, 
the saintly old man of whom I had much to say in the 
preceding book, related how his brother John, a monk in 
his monastery, had foretold his death to the brethren fourteen 
days before it occurred, and kept count of the days as they 
passed. Three days before he died, he became sick with a 



234 SAINT GREGORY 

fever. When the hour of death drew near, he received the 
sacrament of the Lord's Body and Blood. Then, calling his 
brethren round him, he asked them to chant the psalms, 
he himself specifying the following verse to be used as 
antiphon: 'Open to me the gates of justice; I will enter them 
and give thanks to the Lord. This gate is the Lord's; the 
just shall enter it.' 27 While his fellow monks assisted him in 
his last hour with the singing of psalms, he called in a loud, 
protracted voice, c Ursus, come/ then passed away. The 
monks were puzzled, not knowing what the dying man's call 
meant. There was great sorrow in the monastery because of 
his death. 

Four days later, several monks were sent to another 
monastery somewhat far away, to get some necessary supplies. 
The monks who went found the entire community in mourn- 
ing when they arrived. 'What is the meaning of this? 5 they 
asked. 'Why all this sadness?' 'We are mourning,' they replied, 
'over the desolation of this place. The one man whose holy 
life kept us united in this monastery has died. He was taken 
from us four days ago.' 

On asking his name, they were told it was Ursus. Inquiring 
further about the hour of his death, they found that it 
coincided exactly with the moment when their fellow monk 
John had called him. We may conclude that these two monks 
were equal in merit and that, just as they died together, they 
would also live together in one dwelling in heaven* 

I would also like to include here an incident I heard about 
some of our neighbors in Rome while I was still a layman 
living in the house I had inherited from my father. Our 
next-door neighbor, the widow Galla, had a son, a young 

27 Ps, 117.19,20. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 



235 



man by the name of Eumorphius. Not very far from him 
lived a military adjutant called Stephen. Now, when Eumor- 
phius was nearing death, he called his servant and said to 
him, 'Go quickly and tell Stephen to come at once, because 
our ship is ready to take us to Sicily. 5 Thinking his master 
out of his right mind, the servant refused to obey. This made 
the master more insistent. 'Go,' he ordered, tell him what 
I said, and do not think I am raving.' 

So the boy set out to inform Stephen. He had gone half- 
way when he was met by another messenger, who asked 
him where he was going. 'To Stephen the adjutant,' he said 
*as my master told me. 5 'But I just left Stephens house/ 
answered the other in surprise. C I saw him die this very 
hour/ The servant hurried back to Eumorphius, only to 
find him dead. Judging from the distance covered by the 
servant in going half way, receiving the message and then 
returning home, we find that both men had died at the same 
moment. 

PETER 

What an astonishing story! But tell me, why did a ship 
appear to the dying man, and why did he say that he was 
being taken to Sicily? 

GREGORY 

The soul has no need of a conveyance. But it is not sur- 
prising that in the vision a man of flesh and blood saw an 
object which was physically real to him, and through it 
was given to undersand that the soul is transported spiritually. 
That he should sail to Sicily is best explained by recalling 



236 SAINT GREGORY 

that in the islands around Sicily there are more open pits 
burning with fires from hell than in any other region. And 
these are becoming larger every day, as well-informed people 
tell us, for, with the end of the world approaching, it seems 
that the openings to hell are enlarged in order to receive 
the great number of lost souls who will be gathered there 
to be cast into eternal punishment. God made these fires 
appear on the surface of the earth in order to correct the 
minds of men. Unbelievers who had heard of the torments 
of hell and still, refused to believe were to see these realms 
of torture with their own eyes. 

And why are the souls of good men and of wicked men 
separated into groups to live in common dwellings acording 
to their common status of good or evil? Christ Himself gives 
us the answer and His words would suffice even if we had 
no examples to cite. He was speaking in behalf of the chosen 
ones when He said, 'There are many dwelling-places in my 
Father's house.' 28 If there were no distinction of rewards 
in that blessed abode, there should be but one dwelling-place, 
not many. As it is, the dwelling-places in heaven are numer- 
ous in order to keep the ranks of good souls distinct and 
allow them to enjoy the companionship of those of like 
merits. Yet, it is said that all those who labored received 
each a silver piece, 29 though now they are separated into 
distinct groups with many dwellings. The bliss, namely, 
which they enjoy is one and the same, but the reward they 
earn for their different degrees of good works is unequal. 
This is doubtless what Christ means in His description of 
the day of judgment. 'I will give the word to the reapers, 5 
He says. 'Gather up the tares first, and tie them in bundles 

28 John 14.2. 

29 Cf, Matt. 20.9-H 



DIALOGUE FOUR 



237 



to be burned. 530 The reapers who gather the tares in bundles 
to be burned are the angels. They will gather the souls of 
men, grouping like with like for like torments: the proud 
to be burned with the proud, the lustful with the lustful, 
the avaricious with the avaricious, the dishonest with the 
dishonest, the envious with the envious, and the faithless 
with the faithless. And since angels assign these sinners to 
their proper places, keeping likes with likes for similar 
punishment, they are said to gather the tares in bundles 
to be burned. 

PETER 

(37) My questions have been fully answered by your 
clear discussion. But can you please tell me how it is that 
some are called out of this world by mistake and come 
back to life again, claiming that they were told to return 
because the summons had not been for them but for some- 
one else. 

GREGORY 

Whenever this occurs. Peter, a careful consideration will 
reveal that it was not an error, but a warning. In His un- 
bounded mercy, the good God allows some souls to return 
to their bodies shortly after death, so that the sight of hell 
might at last teach them to fear the eternal punishments 
in which words alone could not make them believe. 

A monk of Illyria, who was with me in my monastery 
here in Rome, used to tell me of his experiences as a hermit 
in the desert. A Spanish monk, by the name of Peter, was 
a fellow hermit with him in the vast solitude of Evasa. Before 

30 Matt. 13.30. 



238 SAINT GREGORY 

undertaking to live in the desert, Peter had become sick 
and died. On being restored to life, he declared that he had 
seen hell with all its torments and countless pools of fire. 
He also mentioned seeing some of this world's outstanding 
men tossing in the flames. When his turn came to be cast 
into the fire, an angel in shining white robes suddenly 
appeared to prevent him from being buried in the burning 
mass. 'Leave this place/ he said, c and consider well how you 
are to live henceforth/ With this Peter came back to earth, 
and the warmth of life gradually returned to the limbs of 
his body. On waking from this sleep of death, he described 
all that had happened to him. But, even had he kept silent, 
his penitential fasts and night watches would have been 
eloquent witnesses to his terrifying visit to hell and his deep 
fear of its dreadful torments. God had shown Himself most 
merciful by not allowing him to die in this experience with 
death. 

But, due to the hardness of men's hearts, the sight of hell 
is not equally beneficial for all. Stephen, a man of high 
rank, whom you know very well, used to tell me about him- 
self. During one of his trips to Constantinople on some 
matters of business, he became ill and died. Since no doctor 
or mortician could be found that day to open and embalm 
his body, it was kept until the following night. Meanwhile, 
Stephen was conducted into the regions of hell, where he 
saw many things he had heard about before but had never 
believed. When he was brought before the infernal court 
for trial, the judge dismissed his case, saying, 1 ordered 
Stephen the blacksmith to be brought here, not this man.' 
So he was immediately sent back to earth. Now, during that 
very same hour his neighbor, Stephen the blacksmith, died, 



DIALOGUE FOUR 239 

and through his death proved that everything Stephen had 
heard was true. 

This Stephen, as you recall, died three years ago of the 
horrible plague which devastated Rome. During that time 
arrows could be seen hurled down from the sky, carrying 
death to many individuals. A soldier at Rome was struck 
down in this way. He did not remain dead very long, how- 
ever, for, shortly after dying, he came back to life and told 
what had happened to him. The scene he described one 
that became familar to many others at this time was as 
follows. He saw a river whose dark waters were covered 
by a mist of vapors that gave off an unbearable stench. Over 
the river was a bridge. It led to pleasant meadows beyond, 
covered by green grass and dotted with richly scented flowers. 
These meadows seemed to be the gathering places for people 
dressed in white robes. The fragrant odors pervading the 
region were a delight for all who lived there. Everyone had 
his own dwelling, which gleamed with brilliant light. One 
house of magnificent proportions was still under construction 
and the bricks used were made of gold. But no one could 
tell for whom the house was meant. There were houses also 
along the banks of the river, some of which were infected 
by the vapors and stench rising from the river, while others 
remained untouched. 

On this bridge saint and sinner underwent a final test. 
The unjust would slip off and fall into the dark, foul waters. 
The just, unhampered by sin, could walk over it, freely 
and without difficulty, to the beautiful meadows on the 
other side. Below this bridge the soldier saw Peter, an over- 
seer of the church who died four years ago, lying prone 
in the foul mire loaded down with heavy iron chains. When 



240 SAINT GREGORY 

he asked why such terrible punishment was inflicted on him, 
the answer he received harmonizes well with what we of this 
household remember of Peter's life and actions. 'He suffers 
these torments/ he was told, 'because whenever he was 
ordered to administer punishment, he would deal out the 
blows in a spirit of cruelty rather than of obedience. 5 Every- 
one acquainted with Peter knows this is true. 

According to the soldier's description, he also saw a priest 
of some foreign country stepping onto the bridge and walking 
over it with all the confidence that a life of sincerity had 
won for him. On the same bridge he saw and recognized 
the Stephen whom we mentioned above. In trying to cross 
the river, Stephen had slipped and fallen, leaving the lower 
half of his body dangling over the edge of the bridge. Some 
fiendish men from the river below seized him by the sides 
and tried to pull him down. At the same time, princely men 
dressed in white appeared on the bridge to draw him back 
to safety. While this struggle went on, with the good spirits 
drawing him up and the evil ones pulling him down, our 
spectator was called back to earth to be reunited with his 
body. No one, therefore, knows what the final outcome of 
this struggle was. 

An explanation of this strange vision, however, is found 
in the life of Stephen, for in him the evils of the flesh carried 
on a struggle with the noble work of almsdeeds. Those who 
dragged him downward represent his lustful tendencies which 
he failed to keep in check. Those who pulled him upward 
by the hands symoblize his great zeal and love for almsdeeds. 
Which of the two came out victorious in this final test 
which Stephen had to undergo at God's ordinance is known 
neither to us nor to the one who was granted the vision of 
hell. What is certain, however, is that Stephen did not 



DIALOGUE FOUR 241 

perfectly correct his life even after returning to this world 
from his visit to hell. Consequently, when he died some years 
later, he still had to undergo a severe struggle to decide his 
eternal fate. 

We might say, then, that a vision of hell and its torments 
is helpful for some, but for others it is the cause of even 
graver condemnation. Some are forewarned by these visions 
and turn from evil. Others, on the contrary, unwilling to 
avoid hell even after seeing and considering its torments, 
become all the more blameworthy. 

PETER 

But how is it that the house in the beautiful meadow was 
constructed with bricks of gold? It seems rather ridiculous 
that in eternity we should still need metals of this kind* 

GREGORY 

Surely, no one with common sense will take the phrase 
literally. We may not know the person for whom the mansion 
was constructed, yet from some details of the vision we can 
tell what kind of good works he must have performed in 
his lifetime. Since the reward of eternal glory is won by 
generosity in almsgiving, it seems quite possible to build an 
eternal dwelling with gold. I had forgotten to mention pre- 
viously that the soldier who witnessed this vision says that 
old people and young people, little girls and boys, furnished 
the golden bricks that were used in the building. Evidently 
our eternal dwellings in heaven are built by those who 
benefit from our almsgiving here on earth. 



242 SAINT GREGORY 

(38) Not far from us there lived a saintly shoemaker, 
called Deusdedit. Someone had received a revelation about 
him in which he saw a dwelling being built for him by 
workmen who engaged in their work only on Saturdays. 
On making careful inquiry, he found out that Deusdedit 
used to keep for sale only as many shoes as he needed to 
make a livelihood. The rest he would pack up on Saturdays 
to be sent to the Church of St. Peter for distribution among 
the poor. It is with good reason, therefore, that his heavenly 
dwelling was built on Saturdays. 

PETER 

I am well satisfied with your explanation, but there are 
still some points "I should like to have you explain to me. 
What is meant by saying that the houses of some were 
touched by the fumes and mists, and others were not? And 
then, why did he see a bridge and a river? 

GREGORY 

We arrive at a true understanding through images. For 
example, the just were seen passing over a bridge to a 
beautiful meadow, because the road that leads to eternal 
life is narrow. 31 The soldier saw a river of polluted water 
because the noisome stream of carnal vices continues daily 
to flow on toward the abyss. The dwellings of some were 
touched by the mist and stench form the river, others were 
free of this defilement, because there are always some who 
perform good deeds zealously, yet are stained by sins of the 

31 Cf. Matt. 7.14. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 243 

flesh through the pleasures of thought. It is, therefore, no 
more than right that an evil-smelling vapor should suiround 
them hereafter since sensual thoughts delighted them in this 
life. For this reason. Job, who realized that those who delight 
in the flesh delight in corruption, passed judgment on the 
luxurious and lustful sinner when he said, 'May worms 
be his sweetness. 332 But those who keep their hearts entirely 
free of carnal pleasures will have their dwellings untouched 
by the evil-smelling vapors. And it should be noted that there 
was a stench and vapors, for the delights of the flesh darken 
the mind they infect, making any clear vision of the true 
light impossible. By turning to base pleasures, man shrouds 
his noblest nature in darkness. 

PETER 

Do you think one can prove on the authority of Scripture 
that sins of the flesh are punished with foul odors? 

GREGORY 

(39) Yes. From the book of Genesis we learn that God 
poured down on Sodom and its citizens sulphur and fire, 33 
and that the fire burned them while the fumes of sulphur 
killed them. Because they were consumed with carnal lust, 
they perished in fire and fumes; their punishment would 
make them realize that they had handed themselves over 
to eternal death by reveling in their own baseness. 

32 Job 24.20. 

33 Cf. Gen. 19.24. 



244 SAINT GREGORY 

PETER 

I have no more questions to ask. My doubts have been 
solved. 

GREGORY 

(40) We should also keep in mind that sometimes people 
are given a glimpse of their future punishment while they 
are fully alive. In some cases, the person himself derives 
much benefit from the experience; in others, the good lesson 
is meant for the people who are present and observe what 
is taking place. 

I recall giving an example of this in my sermons to the 
people. 34 I mentioned the case of Theodore, a very restless 
young man, who entered my monastery with his brother 
under force of circumstances rather than of his own free 
will. He was always irritated when any spiritual lesson was 
brought home to him. He could not bear doing good or 
hearing about it. In fact, he would become angry or sarcastic 
and swear that he had never intended to put on the religious 
habit or become a monk. 

During the plague which recently carried off a large part 
of the population of this city, Theodore became dangerously 
ill, with the disease lodging in his abdomen. When he was 
about to die, the brethren gathered round the bed to offer 
their prayers for his safe departure from this life to the 
next. The extremities of his body were now cold with death 
up to his breast, where the lifeblood was still pulsating 
warmly. Seeing the end approaching rapidly, his brethren 
became more fervent in their prayers. Suddenly, the sick 

34 Horn, in Evang. 2.38.16 (PL 76.1292); 1.19.7 (PL 76.1158). 



DIALOGUE FOUR 245 

man interrupted them. 'Stand back!' he shouted, 'I have 
been cast out to be devoured by the dragon. Your presence 
keeps him from doing so., but he has already taken my head 
into his jaws. Stand back! Don't make him torture me any 
longer. Let him finish me off, if that is what I am destined 
for. Why do you make me suffer this suspense?' 

The brethren tried to quiet him. 'What is it you are 
saying?' they asked. 'Bless yourself with the sign of the cross.' 
In answer, he shouted excitedly, C I want to bless myself, 
but cannot because the dragon is holding me in his coils!' 

Hearing this, the brethren fell prostrate in prayer and, 
adding tears to their petitions, begged insistently for his 
release. Suddenly, with a sigh of relief, the sick brother cried 
happily, 'Thanks be to God ! The dragon who tried to devour 
me has fled. He could not stand the attack of your prayers. 
And now please beg God to forgive my sins, for I am ready 
to live like a real monk and fully determined to abandon 
my old, worldly ways.' 

After recovering from the partial death of his body, this 
monk offered his life generously to God. With a complete 
change of heart, he now welcomed afflictions and endured 
them for a long time until his soul was finally freed from 
the body. 

On the other hand, there was Chrysaorius. Probus, his 
kinsman, whom I mentioned before, used to tell me about 
him. Chrysaorius was very rich in this world's goods, but 
his vices were as abundant as his possessions. He was proud 
and conceited, a slave to the lusts of the flesh, and burning 
with avarice to amass more wealth. Now, when the Lord 
decreed to make an end of all these evils, He struck him 
with a disease that caused his death. A short time before 
he died, however, he saw hideous spirits standing before 



246 SAINT GREGORY 

him, threatening fiercely to carry him to the depths of hell. 
Pale with terror, trembling and perspiring, he finally burst 
out in a cry of anguish and begged for a few moments of 
grace. Then, with a loud, excited voice he called for his 
son Maximus, a monk whom I met after I myself had become 
a monk, 'Maximus/ he called, 'come quickly! I never did 
you any wrong. I entrust myself to your care. Take me !' 

In a short time Maximus stood at his side, terribly upset, 
while the entire family gathered round, weeping and lament- 
ing. Though they could not actually see the evil spirits and 
their horrible attacks, they could tell from the sick man's 
own declarations, from the pallor on his face and from 
his trembling body, that the evil spirits were present. In 
mortal terror of these horrible images, he kept tossing from 
side to side on his bed. First, he would lie on his left side. 
Then, unable to bear the sight, he would turn his face to 
the wall. There, too, the images appeared. And now, nearly 
worn out and despairing of any relief, he shouted, c Give 
me time until morning! Hold off at least until morning!' 
With that his life was snatched away. 

In this case it is clear that Chrysaorius saw the vision not 
for his own benefit, but to warn us that God is extremely 
patient in waiting for us to do good. For, surely, it did not 
profit this rich man to see the foul spirits before his death. 
And what did he gain by asking for time to repent, since 
his request was not granted? 

One of our fellow priests, Athanasius of Isauria, tells 
of a terrifying incident that took place in Iconium during 
his lifetime. In the monastery called Ton Galathon was a 
monk reputed for his sanctity and revered for his nobility 
of character. In all his actions he was most circumspect. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 



247 



But, as the outcome proves, he was not all he appeared to 
be. He made his brethren believe he was fasting, while in 
reality he used to eat in secret, a vice of which his brethren 
were entirely unaware. Then he became seriously ill, and 
when he was face to face with death he asked to have the 
entire community gather round him. In view of his reputa- 
tion, they expected in all sincerity to hear a noble and 
inspiring message from his lips. But, trembling in his wretched- 
ness, he was forced to reveal that after death he would be 
delivered into the power of Satan. 'You thought all along 
that I was fasting with you, 3 he said 'but, unknown to you 
I took food secretly. For this reason I have been handed 
over to the dragon to be devoured. His tail is now coiled 
around my feet and knees and, with his head to my mouth, 
he is stealing the breath of life from me.' Death followed 
at once, without leaving him time to repent and thus free 
himself from the dragon who appeared to him so vividly. 
It was clearly for the benefit of the bystanders that he saw 
the dragon into whose power he was delivered. He could 
point him out to others but for himself there was no escape. 

PETER 

I should like to know if we have to believe in a cleansing 
fire after death. 

GREGORY 

(41) In the Gospel our Lord says, 'Finish your journey 
while you still have the light.' 35 And in the words of the 

35 John 12.35. 



248 SAINT GREGORY 

Prophet He declares, c ln an acceptable time I have heard 
thee, and in the day of salvation I have helped thee.' 36 St. 
Paul's comment on this is: 'And here is the time of pardon; 
the day of salvation has come already. 337 Solomon, too, says, 
'Anything you can turn your hand to, do with what power 
you have; for there will be no work, nor reason, nor knowl- 
edge, nor wisdom in the nether world where you are going.' 38 
And David adds, Tor his mercy endures forever.' 39 From 
these quotations it is clear that each one will be presented 
to the Judge exactly as he was when he departed this life. 
Yet, there must be a cleansing fire before judgment, because 
of some minor faults that may remain to be purged away. 
Does not Christ, the Truth, say that if anyone blasphemes 
against the Holy Spirit he shall not be forgiven 'either in 
this world or in the world to come'? 40 From this statement 
we learn that some sins can be forgiven in this world and 
some in the world to come. For, if forgiveness is refused for 
a particular sin, we conclude logically that it is granted for 
others. This must apply, as I said, to slight transgressions, 
such as persistent idle talking, immoderate laughter, or blame 
in the care of property, which can scarcely be administered 
without fault even by those who know the faults to be 
avoided, or errors due to ignorance in matters of no great 
importance. All these faults are troublesome for the soul 
after death if they are not forgiven while one is still alive. 
For, when St. Paul says that Christ is the foundation, he 
adds: 'But on this foundation different men will build in 

36 Isa. 49.8, 

37 2 Cor. 6.2. 

38 Eccle. 9.10. 

39 Ps. 117.1. 

40 Matt. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 



249 



gold, silver, precious stones, wood, grass, or straw . . . and 
fire will test the quality of each man's workmanship. He will 
receive a reward, if the building he had added on stands 
firm! if it is burnt up, he will be the loser; and yet he himself 
will be saved, though only as men are saved by passing 
through fire. 341 

Although this may be taken to signify the fire of suffering 
we experience in this life, it may also refer to the cleansing 
fire of the world to come, and, if one accepts it in this sense, 
one must weigh St. Paul's words carefully. When he says 
that men are saved by passing through fire, he is not referring 
to men who build on this foundation in iron, bronze, or 
lead, that is, in mortal sins which are indestructible by fire. 
He specifies those who build on this foundation in wood, 
grass, and straw, that is, in venial or trivial sins which fire 
consumes easily. In this connection we should also remember 
that in the world to come no one will be cleansed even of 
the slightest faults, unless he has merited such a cleansing 
through good works performed in this life. 

(42) When I was still a young layman, I heard my elders 
and men acquainted with the circumstances tell of Paschasius, 
a deacon of the Apostolic See. His highly orthodox and 
brilliantly written books on the Holy Spirit are still read. 
He was a man of outstanding sanctity and very zealous in 
the practice of almsgiving. His kindness to the poor was 
remarkable, while for himself he had nothing but contempt. 
In the dispute over the papacy between the parties of 
Symmachus and Lawrence, which was accompanied by the 
excitment of popular demonstrations, he cast his vote for 
Lawrence. Even though Symmachus was later on accepted 

41 1 Cor. 3.12-15. 



250 SAINT GREGORY 

unanimously by both parties, Paschasius would not change his 
affiliations, but to the end of his life reserved his devotion 
and respect for Lawrence, the man whom the Church by the 
judgment of her bishops had refused to set up as her head. 

Paschasius died during the reign of Pope Symmachus. A 
possessed person touched his dalmatic, which had been laid 
on the coffin, and was instantly cured. A long time afterward 
Germanus, Bishop of Capua, whom I have already men- 
tioned, 42 came to the baths of Angulus at his doctor's advice. 
As he entered the hot baths, he found the deacon Paschasius 
standing there as an attendant. Germanus was shocked and 
asked what a man of his dignity was doing in such a place. 
'The only reason I am serving here, 3 the deacon answered, 
*is that I endorsed the party of Lawrence against Symmachus. 
But I beg you, pray for me to the Lord. When you come 
back and no longer find me here, you will know that your 
prayers have been heard.' 

Germanus, therefore, gave himself to fervent prayer, and, 
when he returned a few day later, Paschasius no longer 
appeared. This purification from sin after death was possible 
because the deacon had sinned through ignorance, and not 
through malice. What we are to believe is that through his 
previous almsdeeds he obtained the grace of receiving for- 
giveness at a time when he was no longer able to do 
meritorious works. 

PETER 

(43) Can you tell me why so many truths about the life 
of the soul which were previously hidden from us have been 

42 See above, 2.35; 4.8. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 



251 



clarified during these last years? It seems that the spiritual 
world is moving closer to us manifesting itself through visions 
and revelations. 

GREGORY 

That is right. For, as the present world approaches its 
end, the world of eternity looms nearer, manifesting itself 
by ever clearer signs. Is it not true that in this world it is 
impossible for us to see each other's hearts? Why, then, 
should we not compare this world to a dark night, and the 
life to come to the light of day? In the transitional hour 
before sunrise, when the night comes to an end and the 
new day is about to begin, darkness is somehow blended 
with light until the remaining shadows of the night are 
perfectly absorbed in the brightness of the coming day. In 
this way the end of the world merges with the beginnings 
of eternal life. Earth's remaining shadows begin to fade as 
the beams of spiritual light filter through them. We can 
therefore discern many truths about the future life, but 
we still see them imperfectly, because the light in which 
we see is still dim and pale, like the light of the sun in the 
early hours of the day just before dawn. 

PETER 

I am delighted with your answer. One thing, however, 
in the life of this distinguished man still puzzles me. How is 
it that he was committed to a place of punishment when, 
at the touch of his garment, spread out over the coffin, the 
evil spirit was cast out of the possessed man? 



25 2 SAINT GREGORY 

GREGORY 

In this we must recognize God's unbounded and manifold 
goodness in dealing with us. Paschasius was indeed made 
to endure a short personal punishment for his sins; on the 
other hand, the miracles performed through his mortal 
remains served to gain public recognition for his works of 
piety, because they had been performed in the presence of 
the people. In arranging it thus, God safeguarded the high 
esteem men had for Paschasius and his almsdeeds, and at 
the same time exacted a penalty for the faults which the 
saintly man had failed to wash away with his tears, because 
he did not 'believe he had done wrong. 

PETER 

I appreciate what you say. Still, in view of this teaching, 
I cannot help but fear for all my sins, not only for those of 
which I am conscious, but even for those of which I am 
ignorant. But were we not speaking a little while ago about 
the regions of hell and its punishments? Can you tell me, then, 
where hell is located? Is it above or below the earth's surface? 

GREGORY 

(44) I do not dare to make an offhand statement in this 
matter, for there are some who think that hell is in a 
definite place on the earth, and others who think that it is 
under the earth. But it occurs to me that if we call an object 
Infernal' because it lies in a lower position, then hell ought 
to be 'infernal' to the earth just as the earth is to the sky. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 253 

This is perhaps what the Psalmist had in mind when he 
said, 'You have freed my soul from the lower infernal 
regions. 343 The earth then is the 'upper infernal,' and lying 
below this is the 'lower infernal.' The words of St. John, 
too, are in keeping with this concept. He says he saw a book 
sealed with seven seals, and, because no one was found 
worthy to open the seals, either in heaven, or on earth, or 
under the earth, he 'was all in tears. 344 Yet, later, he says 
that the book was opened by the Lion of the Tribe of 
Juda. This book can refer only to sacred Scriptures, for it 
was opened by no one but Christ our Redeemer, who became 
man, and by His death, resurrection, and ascension opened 
the way to all the mysteries it contained. No one in heaven 
opened it, because no angel could; no one on earth opened 
it, because no man living in the flesh had the power of 
doing so; no one under the earth was found worthy to open 
it, because souls separated from their bodies do not have 
such powers. No one but our Lord could open up the hidden 
meanings of the sacred word. Since, then, no one under 
the earth was found worthy to unseal the book, I see no 
reason why we should not believe that hell is under the 
earth. 

PETER 

(45) Is there one kind of fire in hell, or are we to believe 
that there are many fires, varying in kind according to the 
types of sinners? 

43 Cf. PS. 85.13. 

44 Apoc. 5.4. 



254 SAINT GREGORY 

GREGORY 

There is one kind of fire in hell, but it does not torment 
all the sinners in the same way, for each one feels its torments 
according to his degree of guilt. Just as in this world many 
live under the one sun, yet not all feel the heat of the sun 
to the same degree some feel it more, others less so in 
hell there are many degrees of burning in the one fire. There 
is no need of different types of fire to produce different 
types of burning, either in this world under the one sun or 
in hell in the torments of one fire. 

PETER 

(46) Surely we do not hold that those who are once 
plunged into hell will burn there forever? 

GREGORY 

We most certainly do! And that truth stands solid and 
unshaken. Just as the joys of heaven will never cease, so, 
too, there is no end to the torments of the damned. For 
Christ says, 'And these shall pass on to eternal punishment, 
and the just to eternal life.' 45 Since the promise He made 
is true, there is no reason to suppose that His threat will 
prove false. 

PETER 

What if someone should say: God has merely threatened 
sinners with eternal punishment to keep them from com- 
mitting sins? 

45 Matt. 25.46. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 255 

GREGORY 

If He makes use of empty threats to keep us from injustice, 
then the promises He makes to lead us to justice are likewise 
worthless. But no one in his right mind would entertain such 
a thought. If God threatened us without ever intending 
to fulfill His threat, we should have to call Him deceitful 
instead of merciful. And that would be sacrilegious. 

PETER 

I should like to know whether it is just to inflct an 
everlasting punishment for a fault which is finite. 

GREGORY 

Your objection would be valid if the supreme Judge were 
to consider only the deeds men perform without looking 
into their hearts. To be sure, the sin that a wicked man 
commits comes to an end when he dies. But, would he 
not be willing to live on endlessly, if that were possible, in 
order to continue sinning? By not leaving off sinning during 
his lifetime, he shows his desire to continue in sin forever* 
The full justice of the Judge, therefore, demands that the 
wicked, who never wished to be rid of sin during life, 
should never be without punishment in eternity. 

PETER 

But a just man does not thrive on cruelty; he has his 
offending servants punished in order to correct them. The 



256 SAINT GREGORY 

chastisement serves to bring them to better ways. But the 
wicked condemned to the fires of hell will never correct 
their wickedness. To what purpose, then, do they burn in 
hell forever? 

GREGORY 

Almighty God, being a God of love, does not gratify His 
anger by torturing wretched sinners. However, since He is 
a God of justice, the punishment of the wicked cannot 
satisfy Him even if it continues eternally. All the wicked 
condemned to hell are being punished for their wickedness, 
to be sure. Yet there is another reason why they burn, 
namely, that the elect may see in God all the joys they 
experience, and may see in the damned all the tortures 
they escaped. Seeing the terrible punishment for sins which 
they avoided with God's help, they become all the more 
conscious of the eternal debt of gratitude they owe God 
for the graces they received. 

PETER 

But why are they called saints if they do not pray for their 
enemies whom they see in torments? Were not the words 
Tray for your enemies,' addressed especially to them? 48 

GREGORY 
They pray for their enemies at a time when the hearts 



46 Cf. Matt. 5.44. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 257 

of their enemies can still produce fruits of repentance and 
through penance gain salvation. What better prayer could 
we say for our enemies than that proposed by St. Paul. 
e lt may be/ he says, 'that God will enable them to repent, 
and acknowledge the truth; so they will recover their senses, 
and shake off the snare by which the devil, till now, has 
held them prisoners to his will. 547 And how shall one pray 
for one's enemies when these can no longer repent of their 
evil ways and turn to works of righteousness? 

The saints in heaven, therefore, do not offer prayers for 
the damned in hell for the same reason that we do not pray 
for the Devil and his angels. Nor do saintly men on earth 
pray for deceased infidels and godless people. And why? 
Because they do not wish to waste their prayers in the 
sight of a just God by offering them for souls who are known 
to be condemned. But if the saints, while still alive and 
conscious of their own failings, have no compassion on the 
unjust sinners in hell, if they show no compassion whatever 
at a time when they realize that their own sins and imper- 
fections are worthy of God's punishment, how much more 
severely will they look upon the torments of the damned 
once they are freed from sin and corruption and stand near 
to their eternal Judge, closely united with Him? In their 
intimate association with the most just of all judges, the 
force of His severity will penetrate their minds, and they 
will be utterly displeased with anything that is out of 
harmony with the least detail of the eternal law. 

47 2 Tim. 2.25,26. 



258 SAINT GREGORY 

PETER 

(47 ) I have nothing to say in answer to this clear reasoning. 
But another question now disturbs my mind. How can a 
soul be called immortal when, as a matter of fact, it dies 
in the eternal fire? 

GREGORY 

Since life is defined in two ways, death ought also be 
considered from two points of view. To live in God is one 
form o life; to live simply as created beings is another. The 
former consists in living a life of happiness; the latter, in 
merely being alive. The soul can therefore be considered 
mortal and immortal: mortal, because it can lose its life 
of happiness; immortal, because it will never cease to live 
the life it was created to live; and this life is not destroyed 
even when the soul is condemned to eternal death. Under 
such a sentence it loses its life of happiness but retains its 
existence. Therefore, it is continually forced to suffer death 
without dying, to waste away without ever ceasing to be, 
to come to an end endlessly. And so, its death is undying, 
its ceasing is ceaseless, and its ending is without end. 

PETER 

At the hour of death, who is there who would not stand 
in dread of this inexplicable sentence of damnation, no 
matter what his life may have been? For, even if he is 
conscious of what he did, he still does not know how minutely 
his deeds will be judged. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 259 

GREGORY 

(48) It is just as you say. Generally, however, the very 
dread that grips a departing soul is sufficient to purify it 
of its minor faults. You have often heard me tell about a 
saintly man who suffered terrible fear at the hour of his 
death, and how after his death he appeared to his followers 
in a white robe and told them of the wonderful welcome 
he had received. 

(49) Sometimes, God strengthens timid souls with timely 
revelations in order to keep them from all fear at the moment 
of death. For example, there was a monk by the name of 
Anthony who lived with me in my monastery. He spent 
his days in tears, looking forward to the joys of his heavenly 
home. With the greatest devotion and spiritual longing he 
would meditate on sacred Scripture, not looking for words 
of wisdom, but for tears of compunction, in order to stir 
his soul to greater fervor. He would leave the world behind 
and rise in contemplation to the heights of God's heavenly 
kingdom. One night, he was told in a vision to prepare 
himself to leave on a journey, because God had ordered it. 
When he said that he did not have the money to pay for 
the fare, he received the answer, If you are referring to 
your sins, know that they are forgiven.' Since he was moved 
with fear and trembling after this first vision, he was again 
admonished in the same way the next night. Then, after 
five days, he took sick and died, accompanied by the prayers 
and tears of his brethren. 

Merulus, also a monk of this monastery, frequently gave 
way to tears and devoted himself generously to almsdeeds. 
His lips were always moving in prayer, for he constantly 



260 SAINT GREGORY 

recited the psalms, hardly ever ceasing, except during meal- 
times and the hours of sleep. He, too, had a vision at night, 
in which a garland of white flowers appeared to come down 
from heaven and rest on his head. Shortly after, he took 
sick and died a very peaceful and happy death. Fourteen 
years later, when Peter, the present abbot of my monastery, 
wished to prepare a grave for himself next to Merulus' 
resting place, he noticed that the air was heavy with a 
fragrance rising from the tomb. It was as if the perfume of 
every flower had been stored there. This manifestation 
proved that the vision of flowers had been real. 

John, another monk of this monastery, was a very gifted 
young man. He was endowed beyond his years with under- 
standing, humility, meekness, and gravity. During a severe 
sickness which brought him to death's door, an old man 
appeared to him in a vision at night, touched him with his 
staff, and said, 'Arise. This sickness shall not be the cause 
of your death. But be prepared, for you have not long to 
live in this world. 3 Though the doctors had despaired of 
his life, he suddenly became well and soon regained his 
strength. He told others about the vision, and for a period 
of two years he devoted himself to God's service with a 
zeal indicative of maturer years, as I already said. 

Three years ago, one of the monks died, and we buried 
him in the cemetery belonging to the monastery. As we 
were leaving the cemetery, John remained behind. After 
we had left, as he afterwards told us with fear and trembling, 
he heard the brother who had just died calling to him from 
the grave. The aftermath proved that this was true, for 
ten days later he took sick with a fever and died. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 261 

PETER 

(50) I should like to know whether we need to take 
these nightly visions seriously. 

GREGORY 

It is important to realize. Peter, that dreams come to the 
soul in six ways. They are generated either by a full stomach 
or by an empty one, or by illusions, or by our thoughts' 
combined with illusions, or by revelations, or by our thoughts 
combined with revelations. The first two ways we all know 
from personal experience. The other four we find mentioned 
in the Bible. If dreams did not frequently come from the 
illusions of the Devil, the wise man surely would not have 
said, Tor dreams have led many astray, and those who 
believed in them have perished,' or, 'You shall not divine 
nor observe dreams.' 48 From these words we can readily 
gather how detestible dreams are, seeing that they are put 
into a class with divination. And if, at times, dreams did not 
proceed from our thoughts as well as from diabolical illusions, 
the wise man would not have said dreams come with many 
cares. 49 And if dreams did not arise at times from the 
mystery of a revelation, Joseph would not have seen himself 
in a dream preferred to his brethren, nor would the angel 
have warned the spouse of Mary to take the child and flee 
into Egypt. Again, if at times dreams did not proceed from 
the thoughts in our minds as well as from revelation, the 

48 Sirach 34,7; Lev. 19.26 (Douay) . 

49 Cf. Eccle. 5.2. 



262 SAINT GREGORY 

Prophet Daniel, in interpreting the dream of Nabuchodo- 
nosor, would not have started on the basis of a thought, saying, 
Thou, O king, didst begin to think in thy bed what should 
come to pass hereafter: and he that reveals mysteries showed 
thee what shall come to pass/ And a little later, 'Thou O 
king, sawest, and behold there was as it were a great statue : 
this statue, which was great and high, tall of stature, stood 
before thee/ 50 and so on. Daniel, therefore, in reverently 
indicating that the dream was to be fulfilled and in telling 
from what thoughts it arose, shows clearly that dreams often 
rise from our thoughts and from revelation. 

Seeing, then, that dreams may arise from such a variety 
of causes, one ought to be very reluctant to put one's faith 
in them, since it is hard to tell from what source they come. 
The saints, however, can distinguish true revelations from 
the voices and images of illusions through an inner sensitivity. 
They can always recognize when they receive communica- 
tions from the good Spirit and when they are face to face 
with illusions. If the mind is not on its guard againt these, 
it will be entangled in countless vanities by the master of 
deceit, who is clever enought to foretell many things that 
are true in order finally to capture the soul by but one 
falsehood. 

(51) This happened recently to one of our men who 
believed strongly in dreams. In one of them he was promised 
a long life. After collecting a large sum of money to last 
him for many years, he died very suddenly, leaving all of 
his wealth behind untouched, without having so much as 
a single good work to take with him. 

50 Dan. 2.29,31. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 263 

PETER 

(52) I remember the man. But may I ask you to complete 
what we began. Should we consider burial in church of 
any help to the souls of the dead? 

GREGORY 

Those not burdened with mortal sin benefit from being 
buried in church because, whenever their friends and relatives 
come to church, they see the burial place and are reminded 
to pray to God for their dear ones. Those who die in the 
state of mortal sin do not obtain pardon by being buried 
in church; instead, they incur an even worse condemnation. 
I can bring this point out more clearly by telling you of 
an event that took place in our own lifetime. 

(53) Felix, the saintly Bishop of Ostia, was born and 
raised in the province of Sabina. He told me of a nun in 
that province who kept her chastity conscientiously, but 
with her tongue freely indulged in every kind of vain and 
foolish talk. After death, she was buried in church. The 
night after her burial, the sacristan of that church saw 
her in a vision being led to the altar and cut in two; one 
part was then burned in fire, while the other remained 
intact. The next morning he told the brethren about it 
and took them to the place where it happened. They found 
the marble floor in front of the altar blackened by fire as 
though the nun had actually been burned there. The incident 
shows clearly that burial in a church will not help the 
unforgiven sinner to escape judgment in the tribunal of 
the eternal Judge. 



264 SAINT GREGORY 

(54) John, a man of high rank, served as Perfect of 
Rome and was well known for his honesty and sincerity. 
He is my witness for the following incident. When the 
patrician Valerian of Brescia died, the local bishop was 
induced to accept a bribe and reserve a burial place for him 
in church. Valerian, however, up to a decrepit old age 
had led a life of sin and luxury, and stubbornly refused 
to change his evil ways at the end. The night he was buried, 
the blessed martyr Faustinas, in whose church the body 
lay, appeared to the sacristan and said, 'Go, tell the bishop 
to throw out the stinking flesh he buried here. If he does 
not do so, he himself will die in thirty days.' 

The sacristan was afraid to tell the bishop. Even after a 
second warning he could not bring himself to deliver the 
message. The evening of the thirtieth day the bishop retired 
as usual in good health. During the night he met with a 
sudden, unexpected death. 

(55) My witnesses for the story of an incident that took 
place in Genoa are the saintly Venantius, at present Bishop 
of Luni, and Liberius, a man of high rank and honest charac- 
ter. They know the circumstances of this incident from their 
servants who were present when it happened. According to 
them, Valentine, the defender of the Church at Milan, was 
an extremely dissolute man given over to every kind of 
frivolity. When he died, he was buried in the Church of 
St. Syrus the Confessor. At midnight, a commotion was 
heard in the church as though someone was being forcibly 
cast out. The sacristans came running to see what was wrong 
and found that two vile-looking spirits had bound Valentine's 



DIALOGUE FOUR 265 

feet and were dragging him out of the church, while he 
kept shouting and railing at them. Terrified at the sight, 
the sacristans returned to their beds. In the morning, on 
opening the tomb where Valentine had been laid, they 
found it empty. Looking around outside the church to see 
what might have happened to the body, they found it lying 
in another grave, the feet bound as they had seen them during 
the night. 

Learn from this, Peter, that, if one dies in the state of 
mortal sin and arranges to have himself buried in church, 
he is sure to be condemned for his presumption. The holy 
place will not win him forgiveness, but will add to his guilt 
the sin of rashness. 

(56) There is another incident which took place here in 
Rome to which the dyers of the city will bear me witness. 
The most outstanding craftsman among them died, and his 
wife had him buried in the Church of St. Januarius the 
Martyr, near the gate of St. Lawrence. The next night 
the sacristan heard his spirit shouting from the burial place, 
*I burn ! I burn !' When the shouting continued, the sacristan 
informed the dead man's wife, who immediately sent fellow 
craftsmen to examine the grave and find out the reason for 
the shouting. On opening it, they found all his clothes there 
untouched (and they have been kept in the church ever 
since as a witness to this event), but there was not a trace 
of his body. Seeing that not even his body was allowed to 
rest in church, we can judge to what punishment his soul 
was condemned. What benefit, then, can be gained by being 
buried in a church, if the unworthy are cast out of the 
sacred places through the power of God? 



266 SAINT GREGORY 

PETER 

(57) Is there anything at all that can possibly benefit 
souls after death? 

GREGORY 

The holy Sacrifice of Christ, our saving Victim, brings 
great benefits to souls even after death, provided their sins 
can be pardoned in the life to come. For this reason the 
souls of the dead sometimes beg to have Masses offered for 
them. 

Bishop Felix, whom I mentioned above, said that he had 
been told of such a case by a saintly priest who was still 
living two years ago in the diocese of Centum Cellae as 
pastor of the Church of St. John in Tauriana. This priest 
used to bathe in the hot springs of Tauriana whenever his 
health required. One day, as he entered the baths, he found 
a stranger there who showed himself most helpful in every way 
possible, by unlatching his shoes, taking care of his clothes, 
and furnishing him towels after the hot bath. 

After several experiences of this kind, the priest said to 
himself: 'It would not do for me to appear ungrateful to 
this man who is so devoted in his kind services to me. I 
must reward him in some way.' So one day he took along 
two crown-shaped loaves of bread to give him. 

When he arrived at the place, the man was already waiting 
for him and rendered the same services he had before. After 
the bath, when the priest was again fully dressed and ready 
to leave, he offered the man the present of bread, asking 
him kindly to accept it as a blessing, for it was offered as 



DIALOGUE FOUR 



267 



a token of charity. But the man sighed mournfully and said, 
'Why do you give it to me, Father? That bread is holy and 
I cannot eat it. I who stand before you was once the owner 
of this place. It is because of my sins that I was sent back 
here as a servant. If you wish to do something for me, then 
offer this bread to almighty God, and so make intercession 
for me, a sinner. When you come back and do not find me 
here, you will know that your prayers have been heard/ 
With these words he disappeared, thus showing that he was 
a spirit disguised as a man. The priest spent the entire week 
in prayer and tearful supplications, offering Mass for him 
daily. When he returned to the bath, the man was no longer 
to be found. This incident points out the great benefits souls 
derive from the Sacrifice of the Mass. Because of these 
benefits the dead ask us, the living, to have Masses offered 
for them, and even show us by signs that it was through 
the Mass that they were pardoned. 

I must not forget to add an incident that occurred in my 
monastery three years ago. There was a monk by the name 
of Justus, well versed in medicine, who attended to my 
needs while I was in the monastery and watched at my 
bedside during my frequent illnesses. When he himself 
became seriously ill, he was placed under the care of his 
brother Copiosus, who at present is practicing medicine here 
in Rome. Realizing that his final hour had come, Justus told 
his brother that he had kept three gold pieces hidden away 
for himself. This fact surely could not be concealed from 
the brethren. In making a careful search of the entire store 
of drugs, they came upon the gold pieces hidden away in 
a supply of medicine. 

As soon as I found out that a monk living in community 



268 SAINT GREGORY 

with us had committed this evil, I was very much disturbed. 
The rule of our monastery had always been that the brethren 
observe the common life strictly. No individual was to have 
anything whatever as his own. Sadly disappointed, I began 
to consider what to do in order to free the dying man of his 
guilt and give the living a salutary lesson. Sending for 
Pretiosus, the prior of the monastery, I said, 'See to it that 
none of the brethren visits the dying man or speaks any words 
of comfort to him. When Justus in his dying moments calls 
for any of the brethren, let his own brother Copiosus inform 
him that the brethren will have nothing to do with him 
because of the three gold pieces in his possession. The bitter- 
ness of this experience at the moment of death may serve 
as a penitential scourge to cleanse him from the sin he has 
committed. After his death, do not bury him with the 
brethren, but, instead, cast his body into a grave dug in a 
manure pile. And as you throw the gold pieces into the grave 
after him, have all the brethren say together, "Take your 
money with you to perdition." So shall he be buried/ 

Of these two commands, one was meant to benefit the 
dying man, the other to instruct the living. The bitterness 
at the hour of death was to bring about the forgiveness of 
his sin, and the harsh condemnation of avarice was to deter 
the others from ever yielding to this vice. It had the desired 
effect. For when the monk came to die and anxiously tried 
to commend himself to the brethren, none of them would 
listen to him or speak to him. When Copiosus explained to 
his dying brother the reason for this treatment, he began 
to weep bitterly for his sin and so passed away in a state 
of sincere contrition. 

He was buried as I had commanded. Frightened by this 



DIALOGUE FOUR 269 

severe sentence, the brethren began one by one to bring 
back to me the smallest and most trifling articles, even such 
as the Rule allowed them to keep. They were very much 
afraid of retaining anything that might bring censure upon 
them. 

Thirty days later, I began to feel strong compassion for 
the deceased Justus. As I considered with deep anguish the 
penalty he was enduring, I thought of a way to relieve him 
of his suffering. With this in mind, I called Pretiosus, the 
prior, and said to him sadly, 'Justus has now been suffering 
the torments of fire for a long time and we must show him 
our charity by helping as much as we can to gain his release. 
Beginning today, offer the holy Sacrifice for his soul for 
thirty consecutive days. Not one of these days is to pass 
without a Mass being celebrated for his release. 3 The prior 
obediently accepted the instructions and left. 

Days passed, and being busy with other affairs, I lost 
count of them. Then, one night, Justus appeared to his 
brother Copiosus, who asked him at once why he came and 
how he was. 'Up to this moment I was in misery,' he said, 
"but now I am well, because this morning I was admitted 
to communion.' 

Copiosus hurried to tell the monks the good news. Taking 
exact count of the days, they discovered that this was the 
thirtieth consecutive day on which Mass had been offered 
for him. Previous to this, Copiosus did not know that the 
brethren were offering Masses for Justus, nor did the brethren 
know that Copiosus had seen him in a vision. At the very 
moment, therefore, when they became mutually aware of 
what had taken place, they realized that the vision and the 
completion of the thirty Masses occurred at one and the 



270 SAINT GREGORY 

same time. They were now convinced that the brother who 
had died was freed from punishment through the Sacrifice 
of the Mass. 

PETER 

The things I hear are marvelous and most delightful. 
GREGORY 

(58) The experiences of living persons strengthen our 
faith in the words of the dead. There was a very saintly man 
by the name of Cassius, Bishop of Narni, who offered Mass 
every day. During the celebration of the sacred mysteries 
he would give way to bitter weeping. One day, he received 
a command from God through one of his priests who had 
a vision. In this vision the following message was given for 
Cassius: 'Do what you are about, and continue at your work. 
Let not your foot rest nor your hand be idle. On the feast 
of the Apostles you will come to me and I will give you 
the reward for your labor.' Seven years later, on the feast 
of the Apostles, after celebrating Mass and receiving Holy 
Communion, he departed from this life. 

(59) There is another incident I would like to add. I 
once heard of a man who had been taken captive and put 
in chains. His wife had Masses offered from him on certain 
days. When the man returned home after many years he 
described to his wife the days on which he had been released 
from chains. She instantly recalled that these were the days 
on which she had Mass offered for him. 

The following incident, which occurred seven years ago, 
also confirms our belief. Agatho, Bishop of Palermo, was 



DIALOGUE FOUR 271 

commanded to come to Rome by my predecessor of happy 
memory. On the way, as I am told by trustworthy and 
saintly men, he encountered a severe storm, which left him 
without any hope of escape. Varaca, his boatman, who is 
at present a cleric in the church at Palermo, was guiding 
the small boat that was towed by the ship. Suddenly the 
towline broke, and the boatman was lost in the wild waves. 
The bishop himself, after enduring many dangers, finally 
reached the island of Ustica, with his ship severely damaged 
by the sea. For three days he searched for his boatman, 
scanning the surface of the sea in every direction. At last, 
in grief and sorrow, he had to give him up for dead. But 
he did the one thing charity cannot refuse he had the 
Sacrifice of Christ our saving Victim offered to God for the 
deliverance of his soul. After this offering, when the ship 
had been repaired, he continued on his way to Italy. Coming 
to the port of Rome, he found his boatman whom he had 
given up for dead. Overjoyed and wishing to know every- 
thing that had happened, he asked how he had been able 
to survive the terrible dangers of the sea. The boatman 
described how he had been tossed about on the wild waves 
in his skiff, at one time forced to swim with the boat full 
of water; at another, left to sit on the keel with the boat 
turned upside down. This had continued day and night until 
his strength gave way under the double strain of exhaustion 
and hunger. At this point, as he still affirms at the present 
day, it was God in His mercy who came to the rescue. 'While 
I was fighting the waves,' he said, 'and quickly losing ground, 
I felt a pressure on my mind which put me into a semi- 
conscious state. Then someone appeared to me out there 
on the waves and gave me bread to eat, restoring my 



272 SAINT GREGORY 

strength immediately. Not long after, a ship sailing by picked 
me up and brought me to land.' When the bishop asked on 
what day this happend, he found out that the boatman was 
saved the very day the holy Sacrifice had been offered for 
him by the priest on the island of Ustica, 

PETER 

I heard the same story when I was in Sicily. 
GREGORY 

I believe that in these instances miracles were openly 
performed for living persons who were unaware of the 
source of their benefits, in order that all those who offer the 
holy Sacrifice, without adverting to its efficacy, might come 
to understand that deceased persons, too, can be absolved 
from sins through the Mass, provided their sins are pardon- 
able. But remember, the benefits of the holy Sacrifice are 
only for those who by their good lives have merited the grace 
of receiving help from the good deeds others perform in 
their behalf. 

(60) The safer course, naturally, is to do for ourselves 
during life what we hope others will do for us after death. 
It is better to make one's exit a free man than to seek liberty 
after one is in chains. We should, therefore, despise this 
world with all our hearts as though its glory were already 
spent, and offer our sacrifice of tears to God each day as we 
immolate His sacred Flesh and Blood. This Sacrifice alone 
has the power of saving the soul from eternal death, for 
it presents to us mystically the death of the only-begotten 



DIALOGUE FOUR 273 

Son. Though He is now risen from the dead and dies no 
more, and 'death has no more power over him/ 51 yet, living 
in Himself immortal and incorruptible. He is again im- 
molated for us in the mystery of the holy Sacrifice. Where 
His Body is eaten, there His Flesh is distributed among the 
people for their salvation. His Blood no longer stains the 
hands of the godless, but flows into the hearts of His faithful 
followers. See, then, how august the Sacrifice that is offered 
for us, ever reproducing in itself the passion of the only- 
begotten Son for the remission of our sins. For, who of the 
faithful can have any doubt that at the moment of the 
immolation, at the sound of the priest's voice, the heavens 
stand open and choirs of angels are present at the mystery 
of Jesus Christ. There at the altar the lowliest is united with 
the most subline, earth is joined to heaven, the visible and 
invisible somehow merge into one. 

(61) We need to sacrifice ourselves to God in a sincere 
immolation of the heart whenever we offer Mass, because 
we who celebrate the mysteries of the Lord's passion ought 
to imitate what we are enacting. The Sacrifice will truly 
be offered to God for us when we present ourselves as the 
victim. Even after the time of prayer, we must strive with 
God's grace to preserve a strong, earnest recollection, as far 
as that is possible; otherwise, trifling cares will dissipate the 
soul's vigor. Vain pleasures, too, will creep into the mind 
and fill it with the din of frivolous thoughts, thus robbing 
the soul of all the advantages of compunction. It was as a 
reward for her steadfastness that Anna obtained her request, 
for, after her tears, she remained in the same firm, constant 
state of mind. For that reason it is written of her, 'and her 

51 Rom. 6.9. 



274 SAINT GREGORY 

countenance was no more changed.' 52 It was because she 
kept the intention of her prayer always before her that she 
received the gift for which she prayed. 

(62) Let us also remember that we are justified in asking 
forgiveness of our sins only if we have previously forgiven 
those who have wronged us. The offering will not be accepted 
unless discord is first removed from the heart, as Christ 
says, 'If thou art bringing thy gift, then, before the altar, and 
rememberest there that thy brother has some ground of 
complaint against thee, leave thy gift lying there before 
the altar, and go home; be reconciled with thy brother 
first, and then come back to offer thy gift.' 53 Since all sins 
are forgiven by the offering of a gift, the gravity of the 
sin of discord becomes apparent when we see that no gift 
will be accepted for it. We are therefore obliged to go to 
our neighbor in spirit, no matter how far removed or 
separated from us he may be, and in spirit bow down before 
him and through our humility and good will be reconciled 
with him. Then the Creator, seeing our good disposition, 
will accept our gift, and in so doing free us from sin. From 
Christ's own statement we learn that the servant who owed 
10,000 talents was cleared of his debt because he repented. 
But because he refused to forgive his own fellow servant a 
debt of 100 pieces of silver, 54 he was shortly after ordered 
to pay in full the debt which had just been canceled. 

This parable shows us that, if we do not sincerely forgive 
injuries, we shall have to give a second account of the sins 
for which we have already done penance and experienced 

52 1 Kings 1.18. 

53 Matt. 5.25,24. 

54 Cf. Matt. 18.24-35. 



DIALOGUE FOUR 



275 



the joy of forgiveness. So, while we are enjoying days of 
grace, while our Judge holds off the sentence, and the 
Examiner of our sins awaits our conversion, let us soften our 
hardened hearts with tears and practice charity and kindness 
toward our neighbor. Then we can be sure that, if we offered 
ourselves during life as victims to God, we will not need to 
have the saving Victim offered for us after death. 



INDEX 



INDEX 



Abraham, 33, 226, 231, 232 

Achsa, 174 

Aeon tius, sacristan, 158 

Adam, 189 

Affile, 57 

Africa, 112, 114, 166, 169, 170 

Agapitus I, Pope, 116 

Agatha, St., 164 

Agatho, Bishop of Palermo, 270- 

272 

Agnellus, monk, 220 
Albinus, Bishop of Rieti, 19 
Aman tius, priest, 175, 176 
Amiternum, 16-18 
Ammonius, monk, 221 
Ananias, 98 

Anastasius, abbot, 28, 31-33 
Ancona, 25-28 
Andrew, Bishop of Fondi, 120- 

122 



Andrew, deacon, 123 

angels, 9, 16, 19, 51, 64, 105, 106, 
135, 174, 189, 192, 197, 201, 
214, 237, 238, 273 

Angulus, 250 

Anna, 273, 274 

Anthon, monk, 95, 259 

Apollo, 74, 121 

Apostles, 6, 8, 175, 199 

Aquino, 81, 123, 124 

Ariano, 115, 163, 164, 166-170 

Armentarius, 222, 223 

Athanasius, priest, 346, 347 

Aurelia, 145 

Autharic, King, 149 

authority, reference to individ- 
uals as, regarding miracles, 6, 
7, 9, 16, 19, 24, 25, 28, 34, 42, 
47, 48, 81, 95, 120, 123-126, 
128, 130, 135, 148, 149, 152, 



279 



INDEX 



Abraham, 33, 226, 231, 232 

Achsa, 174 

Acontius, sacristan, 158 

Adam, 189 

Affile, 57 

Africa, 112, 114, 166, 169, 170 

Agapitus I, Pope, 116 

Agatha, St., 164 

Agatho, Bishop of Palermo, 270- 

272 

Agnellus, monk, 220 
Albinus, Bishop of Rieti, 19 
Amantius, priest, 175, 176 
Amiternum, 16-18 
Ammonius, monk, 221 
Ananias, 98 

Anastasius, abbot, 28, 31-33 
Ancona, 25-28 
Andrew, Bishop of Fondi, 120- 

122 



Andrew, deacon, 123 

angels, 9, 16, 19, 51, 64, 105, 106, 
135, 174, 189, 192, 197, 201, 
214, 237, 238, 273 

Angulus, 250 

Anna, 273, 274 

Anthon, monk, 95, 259 

Apollo, 74, 121 

Apostles, 6, 8, 175, 199 

Aquino, 81, 123, 124 

Ariano, 115, 163, 164, 166-170 

Armentarius, 222, 223 

Athanasius, priest, 346, 347 

Aurelia, 145 

Autharic, King, 149 

authority, reference to individ- 
uals as, regarding miracles, 6, 
7, 9, 16, 19, 24, 25, 28, 34, 42, 
47, 48, 81, 95, 120, 123-126, 
128, 130, 135, 148, 149, 152, 



279 



153, 166, 175, 201, 203, 204, 
207, 208, 211, 213, 215, 227- 
229, 234, 237, 245, 264, 266, 
267, 270, 271 

baptism, 212 

Basil, magician, 16-18 

bear, miracle involving, 126, 136, 

137, 159 

Benedict I, Pope, v 
Benedict, St., v, 87, 107, 148, 201; 

birth of, 55; 

as solitary, 56-61, 64; 

as abbot, 61-63; 

attempts to poison, 62, 70, 71; 

establishes monasteries, 66, 67; 

as educator, 66; 

preaching of, 74; 

miracles of, 68-78, 85-88, 92- 

101, 108; 

and prophecy, 77-85, 88-91; 

and St. Scholastica, 102-105; 

death of, 81, 107, 108 
Benedict, monk, 148, 149 
Benedicta, nun, 206, 207 
blasphemy, 213 
blindness, miracle involving, 45, 

48 
Boniface, Bishop of Ferentino, 

34-41 

Boniface, deacon, 151 
bread, miracle involving, 50, 

179, 180 
brush hook, miracle involving, 

68 



Buccelin, 10 
Buxentum, 145 

Caleb, 174 

Campania, 10, 88, 96, 104, 111, 

121, 141; 

Citadel of, 55, 74 
Campli, 201-203 
Canosa, 80, 118, 119 
Capua, 105, 200, 201, 250 
Carterius, 159, 160 
Cassius, Bishop of Narni, 119, 

120, 270-272 
Centum Cellae, 266 
Cerbonius, Bishop of Populonia, 

125-127 
Castorius, Bishop of Amiter- 

num, 16, 18 
caterpillars, miracle involving, 

39 
Christ, as pattern, 36; 

as Redeemer, 73, 218; 

as Teacher, 8; 

as Truth, 8, 23, 153, 248; 

as Victim, 271-275 
Chrysaorius, 245, 246 
Civitavecchia, 223 
compunction, 173 
Constantine, abbot, 56 
Constantinople, 116, 117, 170, 

177 
Constantius, Bishop of Aquino, 

81, 123, 124 

Constantius, priest, 35, 38, 39 
Constantius, sacristan, 25-27 



280 



contemplation, 64, 65, 106 

Copiosus, doctor, 267, 269 

Corinth, 117 

Cotrone, 177 

Cumquodeus, lawyer, 219, 220 

Daniel, 91, 157, 233, 261, 262 
Datius, Bishop of Milan, 117, 

118 

David, 23, 72, 84, 89, 248, 25-3 
dead, life restored to, 11, 48-51, 

76, 77, 100, 101, 145-147, 200, 

229; 

respect for, 24 
death, delayed, 92-94; 

foreknowledge of, 31, 32, 37, 

38, 69, 219-223, 233-235; 

rescue from, 69, 143, 180-183, 

177-178, 238; 

request for, 32, 206, 212 
demons, possession by, 25, 42, 43, 

49, 81, 82, 98, 120, 153, 164, 

165, 251 

Deodatus, abbot, 57 
Deusdedit, 228 

Deusdedit, shoemaker, 241, 242 
Devil, 17, 18, 41-44, 51, 58, 67, 

70, 74-76, 82, 97, 98, 117, 118, 

120, 121, 131, 136, 150-153, 

162, 165, 171, 172, 200, 213, 

216, 227, 247, 261, 264; 

see also demons 
Dives, 226, 232 
Donatus, St., 29 
dragons, 95, 245-247 



Easter, 58, 59, 167, 221, 230 

Elba, 127 

Eleutherius, abbot, 130, 152, 170- 

173, 175 

Eleutherius, St., 205 
Elias, 11, 72 

Eliseus, 12, 30, 72, 79, 89 
Equitius, abbot, 16-25 
Eucharist, Holy, 94, 107, 117, 

167, 203, 210, 234, 270 
Eumorphius, 235 
Euthicius, 66 

Eutychius, monk, 135, 136, 141 
Evasa, 237 

ExMlaratus, monk, 86 
Ezechiel, 234 

faith, 189-191, 198 

fasting, 7, 58, 59, 77, 78, 238,, 247 

Felix, Bishop of Ostia, 221, 263, 

266 

Felix, nobleman, 18, 19 
Felix, prior, 14, 15 
Felix III, Pope, 211 
Ferentino, 34-41, 128, 175, 176, 

185, 186 
fire, miracle involving, 28, 76, 

149, 163-165, 167, 230, 263 
fish, miracle involving, 7 
flesh, tempations of, 16, 42, 59- 

61, 71, 120-123, 142, 143, 194, 

230 

Florentius, monk, 135-141 
Florentius, priest, 70-72 
Florentius, subdeacon, 70 



281 



Floridus, Bishop of Ferentino, 

128, 175, 176 
Fondi, 6-14, 120-122 
forgiveness, 274-275 
Fortunatus, abbot, 16, 24, 49 
Fortunatus, Bishop of Todi, 41- 

49 

Fortunatus, nobleman, 37 
fox, miracle involving, 40, 41 
Franks, 10 
Frigdianus, Bishop of Lucca, 

124, 125 
Fulgentius, Bishop of Ostricoli, 

127, 128 

Galla, 205-207, 234 
Gaudentius, priest, 34 
Genoa, 264 
Germanus, Bishop of Capua, 

105, 200, 250 
Gerontius, monk, 220 
glass, miracle involving, 29, 56, 

57, 62, 97 
Goths, vi, 9, 39, 46, 68, 79, 99, 

100, 115, 116, 126, 128-130, 

148, 149, 205, 229 
grace, 19, 59, 202 
grain, miracle involving, 40, 88 
Gregoria, 130 

Gregory the Great, St., life of, v- 
vii; 

illness of, 172, 173; 
Dialogues, purpose of, vi; 
character Peter in, vii; 



Homilies on the Gospels, 207, 
208, 211, 213,224, 244 

Gregory Thaumaturgos, St., 29 

Grimaret, 127 

Habacuc, 91 

heaven, 174, 195, 201, 203, 204, 

208, 210, 212, 217-219, 223-225, 

231-233, 236, 241, 254 
hell, 195, 213, 225-231, 236, 244, 

247-249, 252-258 
Herculanus, Bishop of Perugia, 

128, 129 

Hermangild, King, 166-168 
Herundo, recluse, 208 
Honoratus, abbot at Fondi, 6-9, 

11, 13 
Honoratus, abbot at Subiaco, 56, 

81 
horse, miracle involving, 9, 10, 

45,47, 114, 115 
humility, 12-14, 20, 27, 29, 34, 

36, 40, 69, 70, 73, 171, 214 

Illyria, 237 
Interocrina, 50 
Isauria, 246 
Isaac, 130-133 
Isaac, Prophet, 33 

James, St., 161 
Jeremias, 173 

Jew, conversion of, 121-123 
John, monk, 223, 224, 260 
John, prefect, 125, 149, 264 



282 



John I, Pope, 115, 116 

John III, Pope, 123, 186 

John, St., 8, 73, 98, 103, 161, 184, 

253 

John the Baptist, St., 8, 74 
Jonas, 73, 233 
Joseph, St., 261 

Jovinus, Bishop of Aquino, 124 
judgment, last, 218, 219, 224-227, 

248, 255, 258-263 
Julian, Bishop of Sabina, 20-23, 

41,42 

Julian, Pope, 227, 228 
justice, 202, 225, 256 
Justin I, Emperor, 115 
Justinian, Emperor, vi, 116, 169 
Justus, monk, 267-270 
Juticus, St., 186 
Juvenal, St., 205 

Laurio, monk, 28 
Lawrence, monk, 7, 9 
Lawrence, 249, 250 
Lazarus, 147, 226, 231, 232 
Leander, Bishop, 166, 168 
leprosy, 47, 95, 96, 137, 200 
Leuvigild, King, 166468 
Liberius, 264 
Liberius, Senator, 104 
Libertinus, prior, 9-14 
Lipari, 228 
Lombards, 24, 25, 57, 86, 127, 

140, 159, 161-164, 178, 179, 

181-183, 186, 215, 216 
Lucca, 124, 125, 



Luni, 124-126, 264, 265 
Luke, St., 6 

madness, 108, 176 

magicians, 16, 42 

Marcellinus, Bishop of Ancona, 
27, 28 

Marcellus, 48, 49, 220 

marriage, 203-206 

Marsia, 216 

Mark, St., 6 

Martin, monk, 141-145 

Martin of Tours, St., 74 

martyrs, 160-162, 199, 215-217 

Martyrius, monk, 49, 50 

Mary, Virgin, 211, 212, 261 

Mascator, 143, 144 

Mass, Sacrifice of, 92, 116, 164, 
165, 230, 267, 269-273; Greg- 
orian, 269, 270 

Maurus, 66-69, 72 

Maximian, Bishop of Syracuse, 
vii, 28, 177, 230 

Maximus, monk, 204, 205, 246 

Mellitus, monk, 221 

Menas, hermit, 159, 160 

Merulis, 126 

Merulus, monk, 259, 260 

Milan, 117, 118,264,265 

miracles, 6, 11, 18, 33, 36, 48-51, 
58, 68-78, 85-88, 92-101, 108, 
111-114, 145-147, 197-217, 220- 
224, 229, 230, 259-272; 
involving: bear, 126, 136, 137, 
159; 



283 



blindness, 45, 48; 

bread, 50, 179, 180; 

brush hook, 68; 

caterpillars, 39; 

fire, 28, 76, 149, 163-165, 167, 

230, 263; 

fish, 7; 

fox, 40, 41; 

glass, 29, 56, 57, 62, 97; 

grain, 40, 88; 

horse, 9, 10, 45, 47, 114, 115; 

oil, 26,30,31, 96, 97, 178,179; 

serpent, 14, 15, 86, 133, 138, 

139, 142, 175, 176; 

stone, 7, 8, 29, 72, 74, 143, 144; 

water, 10, 12, 47, 68, 69, 104, 

123-125, 128, 141, 142, 150, 

177, 178, 271, 272; 

wine, 34, 35, 39, 119; 

see also demons; visions 
money, 38, 39, 95, 99, 112, 262, 

268, 274 
Monte Cassino, 55, 74, 80, 81, 

86, 89, 105 
Moses, 9, 60, 72 
Mt. Argentarius, 145 
ML Soracte, 28-31 
Musa, 210, 211 

Narni, 119, 120, 270-272 

Narseo, patrician, 222 

Nathan, 89 

Nepi, 28 

Nonnosus, abbot, vii, 28-31 

Norcia, 55, 135, 178-184, 202, 203 



obedience, 8, 125 

oil, miracle involving, 26, 30, 

31, 96, 97, 178, 179 
orders, holy, 82, 92 
Ostia, 221, 263, 266 
Ostrogoths, 79 
Otricoli, 127, 128 

Palermo, 270-272 

Palestrina, 155, 156 

paradise, 189 

Paschasius, deacon, 249, 250, 252 

Paul, St., 52, 65, 83-86, 102, 138, 

147, 148, 196, 198, 204, 218, 

248, 249 

Paulinus of Nola, St., 111-115 
Pelagius II, Pope, v, 141 
Peregrinus, monk, 95 
Perugia, 128, 129 
Peter, abbot, 260 
Peter, monk, 237-241 
Peter, St., 52, 63, 64, 69, 72, 73, 

93, 98, 99, 116, 156-158, 204, 

206, 207 
Piacenza, 125 
pigs, 152, 153, 164, 165 
Placid, 66, 68, 69 
Pompeianus, Count, 67 
Populonia, 125-127 
Praeneste, 208 
prayer, 66-68, 91, 92, 99, 102, 

130, 131, 136, 140, 172, 211, 

245; 

see also Mass; miracles 



284 



preaching, 19, 20, 74, 193-195, 

202, 203 

predestination, 32, 33 
predictions, 31, 32, 37, 38, 69, 

219-223; 

see also visions 
Pretiosus, prior, 269 
pride, 22, 27, 44, 87, 117, 135 
Probus, Bishop of Rieti, 204, 

205, 213, 245 
Proclus, St., 37 
Pronulfus, Count, 149 
prophets, 12, 24, 89, 91 
providence, 41, 82, 134, 135, 223, 

252, 271 

Quadragesimus, subdeacon, 145, 
146 

Ravenna, 11, 39, 46 

Rebecca, 33 

Recared, King, 168 

Redempta, 208-210 

Redemptus, Bishop of Fefen- 
tino, 185, 186 

Reparatus, 229, 230 

Rieti, 19, 204, 205, 213, 245 

Riggo, 79, 80 

Romanus, monk, 57, 58 

Rome, 56, 80, 81, 121, 125, 148- 
150, 156-158, 170, 177, 201, 
213, 215, 219-221, 229, 234, 
237, 239, 264, 265, 267, 271 

Romula, paralytic, 208-210 



Sabina, 20-23, 41, 42, 263 
Sabinus, Bishop of Canosa, 118, 

119 

Sabinus, Bishop of Piacenza, 125 
St. Andrew, monastery of, v, vii, 

220, 228, 237, 244, 260 
St. Clement, church of, 207 
St. Januarius, church of, 220, 

265 

St. John, church of, 266 
St. Juticus, church of, 186 
St. Lawrence the Martyr, church 

of, 24, 179, 229 
St. Paul, church of, 164 
St. Peter, church of, 47, 56, 129, 

145, 206, 242 

St. Renatus, monastery of, 204 
St. Sebastian, church of, 42 
St. Sixtus, church of, 220 
St. Syrus, church of, 264 
St. Zeno, church of, 150 
Samaria, 217 
Samnium, 6, 9, 159, 201 
Sanctulus, prior, 135, 178-184 
Sapphira, 98 
Scholastica, St., 102-105 
Scripture, Holy, citations from: 

Acts, 52, 59, 64, 65, 86, 90, 101 

Apocalypse, 95, 219, 253 

1 Corinthians, 82, 83, 138, 

147, 148, 196, 249 

2 Corinthians, 65, 102, 147, 

148, 218, 248 
Daniel, 91, 157, 262 



285 



Ecclesiastes, 185, 193-195, 248, 

261 

Ephesians, 147 

Exodus, 72 

Galatians, 148 

Genesis, 33, 243 

Hebrews, 65, 198 

Isaias, 19, 117, 139, 140, 185, 

218, 248 

Jeremias, 185 

Job, 243 

John, 18, 31, 73, 88, 98, 109, 

168, 170, 236, 247 

1 John, 103, 184 

Josue, 174 

Judges, 134 

1 Kings, 274 

2 Kings, 23, 72, 89 

3 Kings, 72, 217 

4 Kings, 12, 31, 72, 79, 89 
Lamentations, 173 
Leviticus, 261 

Luke, 23, 63, 96, 218, 226, 231 
Matthew, 36, 44, 52, 58, 69, 
72, 73, 153, 161, 227, 236, 237, 
242, 248, 254, 256, 274 
Numbers, 60, 72 
Philippians, 65, 114, 148, 218 
Proverbs, 140 
Psalms, 84, 234, 248, 253 
Romans, 83, 114, 147, 184, 273 
Sirach, 261 
2 Timothy, 257 
Wisdom, 62, 216 



Sebastian, St., 164 

serpent, miracle involving, 14, 

15, 86, 133, 138, 139, 142, 175, 

176 

Servandus, deacon, 104, 105 
Servulus, paralytic, 207, 208 
Severus, priest, 50, 51 
Sicily, 80, 228, 235, 236, 271, 272 
Simplicius, abbot, 56 
Sodom, 243 

Solomon, 185, 192, 193, 248 
soul, 196-201, 207, 214, 217-227, 

250,263; 

immortality of, 199-201, 258; 

see also death; judgment 
Spain, 166, 237 
Speciosus, 201, 208 
Spes, abbot, 201-203 
Spirit, Holy, 8, 36, 84, 88, 109, 

190, 202, 248, 249, 262, 263 
Spoleto, 130, 131, 152, 163, 170 
Stephen, adjutant, 235 
Stephen, abbot, 213, 214 
Stephen, priest, 151 
Stephen, of confused idienties, 

237-241 
stone, miracle involving, 7, 8, 29, 

72, 75, 143, 144 
Subiaco, 56, 57, 68, 81 
Subura, 164 

superior, monastic, 8, 64, 65 
Suppentonia, 28, 31-33 
Sura, 215 

Suranus, abbot, 215, 216 
Symmachus, patrician, 205, 228 



286 



Symmachus, Pope, 249, 250 
Syracuse, vii, 28, 177, 230 

Tabitha, 98 

Tarsilla, 210 

Tauriana, 266 

Terracina, 89, 90 

Tertullus, Senator, 66 

theft, 132, 133, 154, 159, 160 

Theodore, sacristan, 156, 157 

Theodore, 244, 245 

Theodoric, 79, 115, 228 

Theopharae, Count, 223, 224 

Theoprobus, 85, 105 

Tiburtius, priest, 229 

Todi, 4149 

To Galathon, monastery of, 246 

Totila, King, 9, 79-81, 99, 118- 

120, 126-129, 148 
Tuscany, 34, 41, 42, 175, 176 

Ursinus, priest, 203, 204 
Ursus, monk, 234 
Ustica, 271, 272 

Valentine, abbot, 24 
Valentine, Bishop of Luni, 264, 

265 

Valentinian, abbot, 56 
Valentinian, monk, 77, 78, 220 



Valentio, abbot, 153, 215 
Valeria, 16, 24, 49-51, 151, 153, 

215, 230 

Valerian, lawyer, 222 
Valerian, patrician, 264 
Vandals, 111, 112, 114, 169 
Varaca, boatman, 271, 272 
Venantius, Bishop of Luni, 124- 

126 

Venantius, Senator, 6, 7 
Verona, 150 

Vicovaro, monastery of, 61 
Visigoths, 168 

visions, 58, 90, 95, 104, 105, 108, 
156, 157, 186, 203, 205, 206, 
210-213, 228, 235, 239-243, 245- 
247, 260-262, 266, 267, 269 

water, miracle involving, 10, 12, 
47, 68, 69, 104, 123-125, 128, 
141, 142, 150, 177, 178, 271, 
272 

wine, miracle involving, 34, 35, 
39, 119 

women, 16, 17, 77, 86, 91, 92, 
152, 171, 203, 208-212, 230, 
263, 264 

Zalla, 99, 100 



287 



A NEW TRANSLATION 



Published by 

FATHERS OF THE CHURCH, INC. 

475 Fifth Avenue, New York 17, N. Y. 



A NEW TRANSLATION 

Founded by 
fLUDWIG SCHOPP 



EDITORIAL BOARD 



ROY JOSEPH DEFERRARI 

The Catholic University of America 
Editorial Director 



RUDOLPH ARBESMANN, O.S.A. BERNARD M. PEEBLES 

Fordham University The Catholic University of America 

STEPHAN KUTTNER ROBERT P. RUSSELL, O.S.A. 

The Catholic University of America Villanova University 

MARTIN R, P. McGuiRE ANSELM STRITTMATTER, O.S.B. 

The Catholic University of America St. Anselm's Priory 



PARSONS, S.J. JAMES EDWARD TOBIN 

The Catholic University of America Queens College 



\Deceased 



G, WALSH, S.J. 
Fordham University 



VOLUMES 
1-41 



1. The Apostolic Fathers. St. Clement of Rome, Letter to 
the Corinthians; St. Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians; 
The Martyrdom of St. Polycarp; Didache or Teaching 
of the Twelve Apostles; The Letter of Barnabas, trans* 
Francis X. Glimm; St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letters to 
the Ephesians, to the Magnesians, to the Trallians, to the 
Romans, to the Philadelphians, to the Smyrnaeans, and 
to Polycarp; Letter to Diognetus, trans. Gerald G. Walsh, 
S.J.; The Shepherd of Hermas; The Fragments of Papias, 
trans. Joseph F.-M. Marique, S.J. 1947, xiv, 401 pp.; 
2nd ed., rev., 1948, xiv, 412 pp. 

2. St. Augustine: Christian Instruction, trans. John J 
Gavigan, O.S.A.; Admonition and Grace, trans, John 
Courtney Murray, S.J.; The Christian Combat, trans. 
Robert P. Russell, O.S.A.; Faith, Hope and Charity, 
trans. Bernard M. Peebles. 1947, viii, 494 pp.; rev. ed., 
1950. [Writings of St. Augustine, Vol. 4] 

3. Salvianthe Presbyter: Writings [The Governance of God; 
Letters; The Four Books of Timothy to the Church], 
trans. Jeremiah F. O'Sullivan. 1947, iv, 396 pp. 



4. St. Augustine: The Immortality of the Soul, trans. Lud- 
wig Schopp; The Magnitude of the Soul, trans. John J. 
McMahon, SJ.; On Music, trans, Robert Catesby Talia- 
ferro; The Advantage of Believing, trans. Sister Luanne 
Meagher, O.S.B.; On Faith in Things Unseen, trans. Roy 
J. Deferrari and Sister Mary Francis McDonald, O.P. 
1947, viii, 489 pp. [Writings of St. Augustine, Vol. 2] 

5. St. Augustine: The Happy Life, trans. Ludwig Schopp; 
Answer to Skeptics, trans. Denis J. Kavanagh, O.S.A.; 
Divine Providence and the Problem of Evil, trans. Robert 
P. Russell, O.S.A.; Soliloquies, trans. Thomas F. Gilligan, 
O.S.A. With an Introduction, "The Quest for Happi- 
ness," by Ludwig Schopp. 1948, iv, 450 pp. [Writings 
of StAugustine, Vol. 1] 

6. St. Justin Martyr: Writings [First and Second Apology; 
Dialogue with Trypho; Exhortation to the Greeks; Dis- 
course to the Greeks; The Monarchy or the Rule of God], 
trans. Thomas B. Falls, D.D. 1948, 486 pp. 

7. Niceta of Remesiana: Writings [The Name and Titles 
of Our Saviour; An Instruction on Faith; The Power 
of the Holy Spirit; An Explanation of the Creed; The 
Vigils of the Saints; Liturgical Singing], trans. Gerald G. 
Walsh, SJ.; Sulpicius Severus: Writings [Life of St. 
Martin; Letters to Eusebius, to Aurelius, to Bassula; 
Three Dialogues], trans. Bernard M. Peebles; Vincent of 
Lerins: Commonitories, trans. Rudolph E, Morris; Pros- 
per of Aquitaine: Grace and Free Will, trans. J. Regi- 
nald O'Donnell, C.S.B. 1949, vi, 443 pp. 



8. St. Augustine: City of God, Books 1-7, trans. Gerald G, 
Walsh, S.J., and Demetrius B. Zema, S J. With an Intro- 
duction by Etienne Gilson. 1950, xcviii, 401 pp. 
[Writings of St. Augustine, Vol. 6] 

9. St. Basil: Ascetical Works [Introduction to the Ascetical 
Life; Four Ascetical Discourses; Preface on the Judgment 
of God; Concerning Faith; The Morals; The Long Rules; 
Concerning Baptism; Five Homilies; On Mercy and 
Justice], trans. Sister M. Monica Wagner, C.S.G. 1950 
xii, 525 pp. 

10. Tertullian: Apologetic al Works [Apology, trans. Sister 
Emily Joseph Daly, C.S.J.; The Testimony of the Soul; 
To Scapula, trans. Rudolph Arbesmann, O.S.A.; On 
the Soul, trans. Edwin A. Quain, S.J.] and Minucius 
Felix: Octavius, trans. Rudolph Arbesmann, O.S.A* 
1950, xx, 430 pp. 

11. St. Augustine: Commentary on the Lord's Sermon on the 
Mount, with Seventeen Related Sermons, trans. Denis J. 
Kavanagh, O.SA 1951, vi, 382 pp. [Writings of St. 
Augustine, Volume 3] 

12. St. Augustine: Letters, 1-82, trans. Sister Wilfrid Parsons, 
S.N.D, 1951, xxii, 420 pp. [Writings of St. Augustine, 
Volume 9] 

13. St. Basil: Letters, 1-185, trans. Sister Agnes Clare Way, 
C.D.P, 1951, xviii, 345 pp. 



14. St. Augustine: City of God. Books 8-16, trans. Gerald G. 
Walsh, S J., and Mother Grace Monahan, O.S.U. 1952, 
viii, 567 pp. [Writings of St. Augustine, Vol. 7] 

15. Early Christian Biographies [Pontius, Life of St. Cyprian; 
Possidius, Life of St. Augustine, trans. Sister Mary Mag- 
deleine Miiller, O.S.F., and Roy J. Deferrari; Paulinus, 
Life of St. Ambrose) trans. John A. Lacy; St. Athanasius, 
Life of St. Anthony, trans. Sister Mary Emily Keenan, 
S.CLN,; St. Jerome, Lives of St. Paul the First Hermit, 
St. Hilarion, and Malchus, trans. Sister Marie Liguori 
Ewald, I.H.M.; Ennodius, Life of St. Epiphanius, trans. 
Sister Genevieve Marie Cook, R.S.M.; St. Hilary, Sermon 
on the Life of St. Honor atus, trans. Roy J. Deferrari]. 
With an Introduction, "The Beginnings of Christian 
Biography," by R. J. Deferrari. 1952, xiv, 407 pp. 

16.' St. Augustine: Treatises on Various Subjects [The 
Christian Life; Lying; The Work of Monks; The Useful- 
ness of Fasting, trans. Sister Mary Sarah Muldowney, 
R.S.M.; Against Lying, trans. Harold B. Jaffe; Conti- 
nence, trans. Sister Mary Francis McDonald, O.P.; 
Patience, trans. Sister Luanne Meagher, O.S.B.; The 
Excellence of Widowhood, trans. Sister M. Clement Ea- 
gan, C. C.V.I.; The Eight Questions of Dulcitius, trans. 
Mary E, DeFerrari]. 1952, viii, 479 pp. [Writings of St. 
Augustine, Vol. 14] 

17. St. Peter Chrysologus: Sermons [59] and Letter to Euty- 
ches; St. Valerian: Homilies [20] and Letter to the 
Monks, trans. George E. Ganss, SJ. 1953, viii, 454 pp. 



18. St. Augustine: Letters, 83-130, trans. Sister Wilfrid Par- 
sons, S.N.D.. 1953, xiv, 401 pp. [Writings of St. Augus- 
tine, Volume 10] 

19. Eusebius Painphili: Ecclesiastical History, Books 1-5, 
trans. Roy J. Deferrari. 1953, xvi, 347 pp. 

20. St. Augustine: 'Letters, 131-164, trans. Sister Wilfrid 
Parson, S.N.D. 1953, xiv, 398 pp. [Writings of St. 
Augustine, Volume 11] 

21. St. Augustine: Confessions, trans. Vernon J. Bourke. 
1953, xxxii, 481 pp. [Writings of St. Augustine, Volume 

5] 

22. The Funeral Orations of St. Gregory Nazianzen [On 
His Brother, St. Caesarius; On St. Basil; On His Sister, 
St. Gorgonia; On His Father], trans. Leo P. McCauley, 
S.J.; and St. Ambrose [On His Brother, Satyrus, trans. 
John J. Sullivan, C.S.Sp., and Martin R. P. McGuire; 
On Emperor Valentinian; On Emperor Theodosius, 
trans. Roy J. Deferrari]. With an Introduction, "The 
Early Christian Funeral Oration, 55 by Martin R. P. 
McGuire. 1953, xxiv, 344 pp. 

23. Clement of Alexandria: Christ, the Educator of Little 
Ones, trans. Simon P. Wood, C.P. 1954, xxiv, 309 pp. 

24. St. Augustine: City of God, Books 17-22, trans. Gerald 
G. Walsh, S.J., and Daniel J. Honan, S.T.L. 1954, 
viii, 561 pp. [Writings of St. Augustine, Vol. 8] 



25. St. Hilary of Poitiers: The Trinity, trans. Stephen J. 
McKenna, C.SS.R. 1954, xx, 555 pp. 

26. St. Ambrose: Letters [1-91], trans. Sister M. Melchior 
Beyenka, O.P. 1954, xviii, 515 pp. 

27. St. Augustine: Treatises on Marriage and Other Subjects 
[The Good of Marriage, trans. Charles T. Wilcox, M.M.; 
Adulterous Marriages, trans. Charles T. Huegelmeyer, 
M.M.; Holy Virginity, trans. John McQuade, S.M.; 
Faith and Works; The Creed; In Answer to the Jews, 
trans. Sister Marie Liguori, I.HJVL; Faith and the 
Creed, trans. Robert P. Russell, O.S.A.; The Care to Be 
Taken for the Dead, trans. John A. Lacy \ The Divination 
of Demons, trans. Ruth Wentworth Brown]. 1954, viii, 
456 pp. [Writings of St. Augustine, Vol. 15] 

28. St. Basil: Letters, 186-368, trans. Sister Agnes Clare 
Way, C.D.P. 1955, xviii, 369 pp. 

29. Eusebius Pamphili: Ecclesiastical History, Books 6-10, 
trans. Roy J. Deferrari. 1955, xii, 325 pp. 

30. St. Augustine: Letters, 165-203, trans. Sister Wilfrid 
Parsons, S.N.D. 1955, xiv, 421 pp. [Writings of St, 
Augustine, Vol. 12] 

31. St. Caesarius of Aries: Sermons [or Admonitions on 
Various Subjects], 1-80, trans. Sister M. Magdeleine 
Muller, O.S.F. 1956, xxxii, 368 pp. 



32. St. Augustine: Letters, 204-272, trans. Sister Wilfrid 
Parson, S.N.D. With index for Volumes 12, 18, 20, 30, 
and 32. 1956, xvi, 317 pp. [Writings of St. Augustine, 
Vol. 13] 

33. St. John Chrysostom: Commentary on St. John the 
Apostle and Evangelist: Homilies 1-47, trans. Sister 
Thomas Aquinas Goggin, S.C.H. 1957, xx, 485 pp. 

34. St. Leo the Great, Letters, trans. Brother Edmund Hunt, 
C.S.C. 1957, 312 pp. 

35. St. Augustine: Against Julian, trans. Matthew A. Schu- 
macher, C.S.C. 1957, xx, 407 pp. [Writings of St. 
Augustine, Vol. 16] 

36. St. Cyprian: Treatises [To Donatus; The Lapsed; To 
Demetrian; The Unity of the Church; The Lord's 
Prayer; Works and Almsgiving; Jealousy and Envy; 
Exhortation to Martyrdom, to Fortunatus; That Idols 
Are Not Gods, trans. Roy J. Deferrari; The Dress of 
Virgins, trans. Sister Angela Elizabeth Keenan, S.N.D. ; 
The Good of Patience, trans. Sister George Edward Con- 
way, S.S.J.; Mortality, trans. Sister M. Hannan Maho : ney, 
R.S.M.] 1958, xvi, 372 pp. 

37. St. John of Damascus: Writings [The Fount of Knowl- 
edge: Philosophical Chapters; On Heresies; The Ortho- 
dox Faith], trans. Frederic H. Chase, Jr. 1958, 1, 
426 pp. 



38. St. Augustine: Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons, trans, 
Sister M. Sarah Muldowney, R.S.M. 1959, xxii, 451 
pp. [Writings of St. Augustine, Vol. 17] 

39. St. Gregory the Great: Dialogues, trans. Odo John 
Zimmerman, O.S.B. 1959, xvi, 287 pp. 

40. Tertullian: Writings, Vol 2 [To the Martyrs; On Spec- 
tacles, trans, Rudolph Arbesmann, O.S.A.; On the 
Apparel of Women; On Prayer; On Patience, trans. 
Sister Emily Joseph Daly, C.S.J.; On the Chaplet; On 
Flight in Time of Persecution, trans. Edwin A. Quain, 
SJJ, 

41. St. John Chrysostom: Homilies 48-88 on St. John the 
Apostle and Evangelist, trans. Sister Thomas Aquinas 
Goggin, S.G.H. 



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